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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Sends Aide to Revive Israel Talks

JERUSALEM -- The United States ordered its chief Middle East peace broker back to the region Wednesday but faced an uphill battle getting Israelis and Palestinians to stop fighting and start talking.


Underscoring tensions, Palestinians burned U.S. and Israeli flags in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israeli troops fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse stone-throwing protests in the nearby Jewish settlement of Tekoa.


As U.S. envoy Dennis Ross prepared to leave for meetings first with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two sides reaffirmed the differences that have plunged their peacemaking into crisis.


"I hope he [Ross] accomplishes the one and only thing that can save this peace process and that is a change of mind on the part of the Palestinian Authority on the issue of terrorism and security," Netanyahu's adviser David Bar-Illan said.


The crisis emerged when Netanyahu broke ground on a Jewish settlement of 6,500 houses last week in Arab east Jerusalem. Clashes began a week ago. Then Friday, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed three Israeli women at a Tel Aviv cafe.


"We hope that Mr. Ross will be speaking loudly and clearly to Mr. Netanyahu to stop the causes that led to violence -- to stop his bulldozers, to stop his settlements and to put the peace process back on track," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.


White House spokeswoman Mary Ellen Glynn offered few details about Ross's visit but said the envoy was expected to return home this weekend to brief U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.


In Washington earlier this week, officials said it was crucial to get the two sides talking again. "We won't be able to stabilize the situation until we have them back talking with each other," one official said.


Israeli political analysts said Ross faces a tall order as he did last year when -- after a wave of violence claimed the lives of 61 Palestinians and 15 Israelis -- he mediated Israel's handover of most of Hebron to self-rule.


"Ross is going to have to find a formula, like he has before," said Leslie Susser, senior writer of The Jerusalem Report magazine. "It must be along the lines of the Palestinians making a very strong commitment to crack down on terror and the Israelis committing not to make any more unilateral moves on the peace front," he said.


The Palestinian man who blew himself in a Tel Aviv cafe last Friday, killing himself and three Israeli women, may not have known he was on a suicide mission, an Israeli newspaper reported Wednesday.


The Yediot Ahronot newspaper said investigators were checking the possibility that militants planted explosives on Moussa Ghneimat, 28, and sent him to Tel Aviv without telling him why.


The newspaper said agents from the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, were basing the theory on Ghneimat's personal profile, which does not match that of past suicide bombers.