Mideast time line

 In the Middle East, May 4 and May 17 loom large on the calendar. For a long time it was feared that Yasir Arafat would declare the formation of a Palestinian state on May 4. That's the deadline set by the Oslo Accords for the parties to settle their differences. But such a declaration would give Israel an excuse to abandon the peace negotiations and crack down even further on Palestinian freedoms.

A May 4 declaration of Palestinian nationhood would also greatly influence the outcome of Israel's May 17 election for prime minister, presumably in favor of Benjamin Netanyahu. He has presented himself in the campaign as the toughest guy on the block--someone who would be tougher in dealing with Arafat than either Labor candidate Ehud Barak or Center Party leader Yitzhak Mordechai. Both Barak and Mordechai are likely to take a more moderate stance toward the Palestinians. With that in mind, Arafat has decided not to declare statehood on May 4.

 

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