WASHINGTON – President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright promised Yasser Arafat yesterday that they would push Israel to withdraw quickly from more West Bank territory, but they demanded that the Palestinian leader quash terrorist groups and tone down anti-Semitic rhetoric in official publications.

Conceding that the Middle East peace process is moving slowly, Clinton’s aides announced that Albright will need to meet with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next few weeks in Europe.

For days, the administration had sought to downplay this week’s separate meetings with Arafat and Netanyahu. Noting that both sides still disagree about land returns, security arrangements, and the final status of Jerusalem, the State Department spokesman, James P. Rubin, said yesterday, “We do not believe that there has been agreement on these various difficult issues.”

Arafat wound up a day of meetings in the White House and the State Department saying he was pleased with the Americans’ attitude and was “not asking for the moon” as he sought West Bank handovers.

Arafat’s canceled tour of the Holocaust Museum is a tale of slights and slip-ups.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Clinton wants Israel to pull out from at least 10 percent of the West Bank in the next stage. That jibes with administration reports that Clinton is seeking a “double-digit” amount. Israel has turned over 37 percent of the West Bank, and a peace accord signed with the Palestinians in 1993 does not specify how much more is to be handed over.

Erekat said Clinton assured his Palestinian guests, “I want a credible and significant redeployment. I want two digits.”

Clinton’s morning meeting in the Oval Office with Arafat lasted just over an hour, like the meeting with Netanyahu. “As long as there is a pressure and efforts by President Clinton, I’m fully confident that the peace process will be protected,” said Arafat.

By the accounts of US officials, this time Clinton and others upbraided Arafat politely but firmly several times during the day for not doing enough to stop terrorism. Spokesman Mike McCurry said, “The president gave the chairman things to think about.”

Ironically, just as Clinton is again getting personally involved in the peace talks, some scholars say he appears to be distracted by the controversy over an alleged affair with a former White House intern.

“What is left of the peace process is shredding, there is a major crisis with Iraq that must be resolved, and what’s the center of attention here?” said Judith S. Yaphe, visiting fellow at the National Defense University. “When you have to spend all your time doing damage control worrying about this latest revelation, I think it makes it very difficult to concentrate on these… issues.”

Netanyahu, who flew back to Israel Wednesday night, was unrepentant about openly courting the Rev. Jerry Falwell, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and other Clinton foes, who say Israel should defy demands to hand over land to Arabs. In his last speech in Washington, Netanyahu offered a public message to Arafat: “You haven’t done anything, and you ask us to give up additional territory to be bases for terrorism.”

Netanyahu said all the West Bank towns that Israel turned over to the Palestinians have started producing TNT for bombs.

This story ran on page A02 of the Boston Globe on 01/23/98.