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The Middle East
Frayed U.S. Officials May Say "See Ya" to Bibi
By Douglas Waller and Karen Tumulty/Washington
Frustrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to accept a U.S. proposal for Israel to withdraw from 13% of the West Bank, aides to President Clinton say Washington may soon pull out of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. "We would tell them, 'You're on your own,'" says a senior White House staff member. But the problem for Clinton is how to make good on that threat yet avoid getting hammered at home. The last time Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave Netanyahu an ultimatum--in May she told him to show up in Washington prepared to accept the U.S. proposal--he stood her up and instead unleashed powerful Jewish groups in the U.S. that blasted the Administration for bullying him. Albright, who has had more than half-a-dozen phone conversations with Netanyahu in the past week, "is fed up with the talks," says a State Department official. But to withdraw from them now "without pointing a finger at Israel is not going to be easy. There will be war with Bibi."