Arafat is Cautioned by Powell

The high-level European Union delegation touring the Middle East, in the hope of reactivating stalled Israel-Palestinian peace talks, admitted in Jerusalem Sunday, November 18, that it has no new peace proposals, contradicting ubiquitous reports heralding a new European peace plan. The admission followed an announcement Sunday by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that he has no new Middle East peace plan either, belying the expectations of his speech in Louisiana on Monday. Washington has only one plan, he said, and that is the Mitchell proposal, drawn up early this year by a panel headed by the retired US Senator George Mitchell.
Powell additionally cautioned Yasser Arafat to make a 100 percent effort to halt Palestinian violence, adding crisply that this time, America wanted to see results.
debkafile‘s political sources note that the US Secretary clearly picked up the note of censure sounded by his colleague, presidential national security adviser Condaleeza Rice, a fortnight ago, when she announced that the president would refrain from meeting the Palestinian leader at the UN General Assembly session in New York.
The European delegation, headed by foreign relations executive Javier Solana and acting EU president Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, had originally intended demanding the usual sweeping Israeli concessions to the Palestinians in exchange for a ceasefire. They were encouraged in prior visits to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Arafat.
However, they found Israeli leaders in no mood to heed European advice.
In Jerusalem, they were told Europe is not regarded as an honest broker for Middle East diplomacy because of its pro-Palestinian bias. Prime minister Ariel Sharon bluntly advised European governments not to transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority as the money was being spent on weapons and firearms directed against Israel. (This year the EU has budgeted some $80 million for economic aid for the Palestinians.) Instead, he recommended they invest in Palestinian infrastructure and industry.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, whose own new peace proposals were shelved, informed the European visitors that the recent decline in the level of Palestinian attacks was the result of the heightened activity of Israeli security forces and not to the Palestinians’ credit.
As though to drive the point home, two explosive charges were laid by Palestinians in Jerusalem Sunday. Both were dismantled before they could cause harm. One was planted opposite the KingDavidHotel, where Sharon and Verhofstad briefed the press. It was made up of a charge connected to a mortar shell. At about the same time, police cleared the busiest intersection of the capital to detonate a small charge found in a litterbin near the CityTower, the tallest building in Jerusalem.
What the Europeans encountered in their current Jerusalem visit was a hardening towards Palestinian violence, the result of the change of attitude in the United States and the lifting of pressure from Washington.
Since the September 11 atrocities and America’s declaration of war on terror, Bush administration officials and the US media have no time for the fine Arab and European distinctions between different kinds of terrorism. The Syrian president Bashar Assad’s attempts to prove that Israel is a terrorist state and the Hizballah freedom fighters do not wash, any more than President Mubarak’s description of Sharon as a bloodthirsty killer. This portrayal was reflected in a new Ramadan skit run by Abu Dhabi television showing an actor made up as the Israeli prime minister drinking out of a Coca Cola can labeled Arab blood.
Clearly Arab hatred of Israel is equally aimed at the United States of America and its bombardment of Afghanistan. There is therefore not much patience to spare in Washington for European sympathy with Arab sensitivities.
The Bush administration has clearly placed Arafat, Assad and countries harboring terrorists on notice to actively fight the blight, or take the consequences. All Washington wants to hear is what Mubarak is doing to root out the extremist Egyptian Jihad Islami and the jihadist Takfir al Hajira, how Assad is putting down the Palestinian Hamas, Jihad Islami and popular fronts and when Arafat is going to scotch Palestinian violence.
The onus for ending Middle East violence has therefore shifted radically since September 11 from the Sharon government to Yasser Arafat and Arab governments.
In the last few days, Palestinian diplomats have been actively lobbying to soften the Bush team’s grim determination. They were told that President Bush’s advocacy of a Palestinian state was conditional on that state’s commitment to fighting terror. Arafat must demonstrate that commitment right now.
The Palestinian leader knows therefore that if he carries on with his intifada, he risks exposing his bases in Palestinian-ruled areas and in Lebanon to being targeted in the US anti-terror war. Yet, according to debkafile‘s Palestinian experts, Arafat has only one response to threats, he escalates the violence. The only difference this time is that until now, he only had Israel to fear – now it is America.

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