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The Peace Process

2 minute read
Dean Fischer/Washington

In BILL CLINTON’S initial 90-minute Oval Office meeting last Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, the President chided his visitor for meeting with the Rev. JERRY FALWELL and evangelical Christian groups at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington the day before coming to the White House. “Look, Bibi,” said Clinton firmly. “You meet with Falwell [because] you think I am snubbing you. I could make the argument that you are gigging me.” The television evangelist, who is anathema to Clinton, has distributed political videotapes that conspiratorially–and unconvincingly–hint, among other things, at the former Governor’s complicity in an Arkansas killing. Moreover, Netanyahu asked Falwell and his conservative supporters to use their influence in Congress to lobby against Administration pressure on Israel to hand over West Bank land to the Palestinians. But the President was in a magnanimous mood, telling Netanyahu, “Let’s forget about it. We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Netanyahu agreed readily. The President’s initiative in defusing the issue improved the atmosphere of the talks. Says a White House adviser: “Given the distractions around here, the extent to which [the President] bent his shoulder to the wheel was stunning.”

–By Dean Fischer/Washington

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