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Netanyahu Returns from Summit; Welcomed by Israeli Supporters

By Marjorie Miller
Los Angeles Times

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived home from the Washington summit to a hero's welcome from his right-wing constituency in Israel, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat did not come home at all Thursday.

Netanyahu's supporters lined the highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem with banners thanking the hard-line prime minister for not "caving in" to U.S. pressure to make concessions for peace. Arafat's adherents, meanwhile, roamed the streets of Ramallah licking their wounds while their leader consulted allies abroad.

Tofiq Anda, 25, waved his left arm - the one in a cast that took a bullet in last week's clashes with Israeli soldiers - to dismiss the summit as a failure for concluding only with an agreement for more negotiations beginning Sunday. Notably, however, he was not using his good arm to throw stones.

"From here to Sunday, we have promised to give Arafat a chance," said Anda, a member of the Palestinian leader's Fatah organization.

Like Anda, tens of thousands of Palestinian teen-agers and young men heeded President Clinton's plea to give negotiators time.

Aside from a few skirmishes between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators, the region was relatively calm Thursday. The emergency summit seemed to have taken the wind out of the sails of Israel-Palestinian clashes, and the scheduling of a follow-up meeting seemed to have prevented another immediate explosion of violence.

The question is for how long.

The two-day summit - the first meeting between Netanyahu and Arafat after Israeli-Palestinian gun battles left more than 75 dead and 1,000 wounded - failed to resolve any of the substantive issues that led to the fighting in the first place.

As Arafat flew to Morocco, Tunis and France, Israeli officials openly rejoiced over the results of the summit and the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas issued leaflets from Beirut and Jerusalem calling for "confrontations" with Israeli troops.

"I think this is the first prime minister who stood his ground, stood by the national interest and didn't fold, grovel or flatter," Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan said of Netanyahu on Israeli radio.

Hamas responded by urging Palestinians to go out after Friday prayers in marches and confrontations with Israeli forces to continue their "sacrifices and martyrdom" in defense of Muslim Holy sites.

The group, which has long opposed the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, raised the specter of conflict among Palestinians with a warning to Arafat's police forces to refrain from obstructing "the national and Islamic forces that are determined to continue the military and popular resistance."

Hamas' political base has been weakened since it launched a wave of deadly bombings in Israel in the spring that caused a freezing of the peace process and helped Netanyahu into office and Arafat and his security forces won popular support for defending Paletinians against Israeli troops. But that support could quickly turn around if Palestinian police were to clash with their own people.

After Palestinian and Israeli security officials agreed to cooperate to keep the West Bank calm, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai ordered some of Israel's tanks moved back from the outskirts of Bethlehem. But he decided to leave the state of emergency in place throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.