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At Fork in Road, Netanyahu Faces Difficult Choice


But Shimon Peres--who served as Israeli prime minister after the November 1995 assassination of his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jewish law student--suspended the pullout after a wave of suicide bombings by Islamic fundamentalists left more than 60 dead.

Arafat is under mounting pressure from his people to show that the peace accords will not leave them stranded in poor, isolated enclaves that can be as desolate-looking as some American Indian reservations.

If Netanyahu chooses not to make any substantial concessions, he faces the option of a war that both sides know would be far graver than the seven-year intifada, or uprising, against Israeli rule that led to the present peace agreements. And as Israelis learned last week, this time the Palestinians have an armed force--the Palestinian police.

Both sides say they want to avoid such an option, and yet both apparently are preparing for it. The Israeli army has tanks poised outside of some of Arafat's West Bank cities and a plan for reentering them to "disarm" Palestinian police if the Israelis feel threatened again. Meanwhile, Israeli television reports that the Palestinians are building military outposts in their cities for an assault from tanks in the event the summit fails and the accords fall apart.

These moves--combined with the events of last week and international pressure--underscore the choice now confronting the beleaguered Netanyahu: negotiations for peace or further strife.

* THE HAMAS FACTOR: Militant group Hamas was absent from recent violence. A12

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