A summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat broke up in acrimony Thursday after the two sides disagreed over land issues and the need for U.S. mediation.
The Palestinians declared that the peace talks were in crisis and demanded that U.S. officials intervene. The Israelis downplayed the differences, but the failure of the summit dashes hopes that they can meet a Feb. 13 deadline for a framework agreement on a final treaty.
Israeli officials said they may proceed with a delayed transfer of West Bank land to the Palestinians, despite the Palestinians' rejection of the territory chosen and outrage that they were not consulted on what would be included.
Barak and Arafat left the tense, two-hour, 20-minute meeting without making public remarks, and a news conference scheduled to follow the summit was canceled. The Israel government later said talks would resume Sunday.
The first four days of what is supposed to be a 10-day session on final issues have made little progress. Israel presented the Palestinians with a plan for the final borders, but the Palestinians dismissed it Wednesday as "nonsense."
Levy hinted that the Israelis no longer hold out hope that a framework agreement will be reached on final issues by Feb. 13. Both sides saw it mostly as a way to spur progress toward a more important September deadline for a final, detailed treaty.