Peace negotiators attempting to shore up the threatened Middle East talks face an almost impossible task following the latest suicide bomb attack on Thursday and the deaths of at least 11 Israeli soldiers after a failed commando raid on Southern Lebanon. It is only days since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reluctantly accepted Israeli and US demands to get tough with Islamic militants and restore intelligence-sharing sessions, and Israel had once more opened the West Bank. But now hopes of progress lie shattered in the carnage of the Beh Yehudah precinct of Jerusalem. Until Mr Arafat cracks down hard on Hamas terrorists, he will rightly be regarded with distrust and suspicion by Israel. His decision to admit Hamas to a so-called 'unity conference', and his embrace of one of the group's top leaders, does not suggest that he has any real appetite for controlling the terrorists. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies have also contributed to the impasse. The Israeli response of mass punishment of Palestinians after every terrorist atrocity produces radicalisation, and increases support for the extremists. Mr Netanyahu's blockade of Palestinian-ruled areas after the previous suicide bombing in July caused hardship on a major scale, leading to tension and massive resentment. Given the demands of their people, it is difficult for the two leaders to take the definitive steps which would move the peace process forward. In any event, nowhere in the Middle East does there seem any genuine spirit of compromise. Israel has not fulfilled its obligations under the Oslo peace accord. It continues to hold land which it has pledged to hand over. Building work goes on to establish new settlements on the West Bank and housing projects on land which Arabs claim in Jerusalem. These should be halted. If mediation by the United States is to achieve any breakthrough, with the Secretary of State's forthcoming visit to the region, it can only come through a very even-handed approach. The Palestinian Authority's insistence that other Arab countries are harbouring the terrorists sabotaging the peace process is something that Madeleine Albright must take into account when she arrives in the Middle East next week. Without other Arab states, particularly Syria and Lebanon, at the negotiating table, there will never be lasting peace. If they were included, there might be a real possibility of isolating the extremists. More immediately, Mr Arafat must outlaw Hamas within his own borders, rounding up and imprisoning terrorists. Understandably, Mr Netanyahu has called a halt to troop redeployments until this is done. The ball is in Mr Arafat's court: for once, he must act decisively.