As if the last week's death toll of almost 70 Palestinians and Israelis was not enough, yesterday saw a fresh hardening by Israel's government. Four months after taking office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears intent on giving hard-line security policies priority over any attempt to breathe fresh life into the peace process. In Israel, security considerations can never be underestimated. But a concentration on security at the expense of attempting to reach a working arrangement with the Palestinians is a one-way street which offers no hope of Israel evolving into a nation truly at peace. The resentment of the Palestinians at their fate is such that it cannot be ignored by any Israeli government that wants to emerge from the cycle of threats and violence to which the country has been subjected since it was founded as a state half-a-century ago. The earlier uprising known as the intifada showed that Israel could not clamp down indefinitely on restive Palestinians. That was one motive for Israel to sign the Oslo accords with the Palestinians in 1993. Yesterday's reopening of the controversial tunnel near a mosque in Jerusalem is a move in completely the wrong direction. Its opening was the spark for last week's clashes; now, as so often happens, a relatively minor issue has come to symbolise something far larger - the whole Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Little hope Palestinian leaders, Arab governments and Western nations have called for the closing of the tunnel. Its re-opening speaks volumes about Mr Netanyahu, and how he sees the relationship with Mr Arafat. For his part, the Palestinian leader will only agree to a one-on-one meeting if he is assured the tunnel will be shut, and he could hardly accept the huge loss of face if he now went to a bilateral meeting while visitors continue to stream through the tunnel. So the American suggestion of a meeting in Washington is a constructive step, which should be built on so that, despite all last week's violence, Mr Arafat and Mr Netanyahu go beyond the frosty handshake they exchanged earlier this month. Mr Netanyahu may still calculate that there is simply no point in trying to re-start the peace process. The hard line sounded by his aides yesterday points in this direction. The Prime Minister may not care that the United States was the only member of the United Nations Security Council not to have voted for a resolution calling for the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians to be ensured and for the immediate resumption of the peace process. He may feel that, with the United States alongside him in a presidential election year, he can ignore international criticism. US role Once the peace process moved beyond its initial stages, progress was bound to become more difficult. Now, Mr Netanyahu has multiplied these difficulties, and shown up his limitations in the process. He was warned of what was likely to follow the opening of the tunnel, but he went ahead - and then flew off to Western Europe instead of staying at home to handle the crisis. He reacts to each spin in the spiral of violence by resorting to the tactics which proved so deadly last week. One old Israeli saying is that secure borders which are not agreed are preferable to agreed borders which are not secure. The target must be to try to achieve both security and agreement. But Mr Netanyahu seems to be interested only in the first. If the President is the one man who can influence the Prime Minister to change his approach, Mr Clinton should make it clear at Tuesday's meeting in Washington that the United States will not stand on the sidelines watching as the peace process withers amid the rocks and bullets - whatever electoral risks that may incur with his Jewish voters. Indeed, peacemaker Clinton could be quite an attraction at the polls.