Ties That Bind

At last, all parties were ready to make peace in the Middle East. Whoops ... Not So Fast

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There was a sense, Ross told me in an e-mail, "that the Middle East was being transformed, this was not just Israelis and Palestinians, but now there was a coalition of peacemakers. That was the mood—and the picture captures the new sense of togetherness."

On that heady day, there were routine annoyances. Clinton and his guests were standing in the Red Room, waiting for the signal to walk to the East Room. But there was some inexplicable delay. Clinton, recalls Kinney, a veteran journalist who is now a photo editor at the Seattle Times, had given the leaders a full tour of every piece of history about the Red Room—he loved doing that for visitors—but even he had run out of things to say. It was during this stall for time that Clinton's tie came into question.

The search for peace in the Middle East goes on, but with new premises. Clinton's vision was based on the logic of persuasion—the belief that people could straighten their ties and even learn to like one another. The current Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, believes in the logic of force—the conviction that any solution must accommodate the reality of unalterable mistrust and animosity. He has sought to impose a unilateral settlement to territorial issues, yielding claims to Gaza but erecting a security barrier to keep Palestinian terrorists at bay. The spirit of the handshake has been replaced by the spirit of the fence. No one knows yet whether that will work, either.


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