Netanyahus vital goodwill gesture

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By moving to unfreeze additional funds withheld from the Palestinian Authority following a July double-suicide bombing, Israel is sending the message that, contrary to popular perception, it is not ready to let the peace process die.

This important goodwill gesture gives a message to Israelis, Palestinians and the world that the stalled Mideast peace process may still stand a chance of revival.

Of course, should Palestinian promises to combat Islamic militants seeking to sabotage peace also come to fruition, the odds will increase.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in her visit to the region, rightly underscored the synergistic character of the peace process. Should one side falter on its promises — as both have at various stages — the other will surely act in kind.

Albright talked tough, as she needed to, demanding both Palestinian action against the tragic scourge of terror and a suspension by Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu of "unilateral" actions such as settlement expansion.

Though settlement building cannot be equated with terrorist bloodletting, Albright's statements demand unflinching responses.

Now more than ever, following this month's suicide bombing on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's promises to take action against terrorism must be kept. Such promises have repeatedly been broken in the past.

At the same time, Israel must crack down on events such as this week's move by a group of Jewish settlers into a disputed eastern Jerusalem quarter. As Albright remarked during her Mideast visit, such gestures can only be seen by Palestinians as provocative.

Albright's visit has provided ever so slight a glimmer of hope amid an increasingly gloomy and dispirited political landscape. We only hope that glimmer will grow brighter.