Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat begin a peace summit with President Clinton at Camp David today.
Just an hour before departing for the talks, Barak faced down an unruly Parliament, barely surviving a vote of no-confidence.
The opposition Likud party failed to muster the 61 votes that would have ousted Barak. Fifty-four members voted for the motion of no confidence; 52 opposed it and seven members abstained.
Nonetheless, many observers are saying that Barak arrives today in Washington alone.
Three right-wing and religious parties, including Barak’s largest coalition partner, announced they were quitting the government, drastically reducing Barak’s support in Parliament from a sound majority to a minority.
Several key ministers in Barak’s Cabinet handed in letters of resignation. Foreign Minister David Levy announced he would boycott the U.S.-hosted talks.
Analysts and newspapers in Israel said the defections were triggered by Barak’s failure to build a consensus before the summit, and by a perception in the conservative wing of the coalition that he would turn over too much West Bank land to the Palestinians at the bargaining table.
- Ambassador Clovis Maksoud, Director of the Center of the Global South at American University and former Ambassador for the Arab League to the U.N. and U.S.
- Phyllis Bennis, is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She just returned from 3 weeks in the West Bank.