- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2001

JERUSALEM Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk sharply criticized both sides in the Middle East conflict, saying that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has never forsworn violence, and that the Israelis have undermined peace efforts by consistently expanding Jewish settlements.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post published yesterday, the ambassador also said he did not envision a comprehensive political settlement in the near future. He suggested the sides work for a phased agreement that would attempt to solve some issues now, and leave for later the thorniest issues such as the status of Jerusalem and fate of millions of Palestinian refugees.
Mr. Indyk, who leaves his post within days, has been a key figure in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during four years over two separate terms as U.S. ambassador to Israel. In the unusually blunt comments, Mr. Indyk said he didn't believe Mr. Arafat "ever really gave up violence as a tool to achieving his objectives."
Israel says that Mr. Arafat has failed to arrest Palestinian militants, and that members of his security forces have also systematically participated in attacks during the more than nine months of violence.
The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv was closed yesterday to mark U.S. Independence Day, but an official confirmed the comments by the ambassador.
The U.S. ambassador also criticized the Israelis for continuing to build up Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, lands the Palestinians are seeking for a future state, the U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Those comments did not appear in the newspaper.
The 200,000 Jewish settlers in the territories are almost double the number that were present when Israel and Mr. Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization began peace negotiations in 1993.
Mr. Indyk said the actions by both sides contributed to undermining the peace efforts, now on hold indefinitely due to the fighting that has claimed more than 600 lives over the past nine months.
The United States has been the main mediator throughout the peace talks and brokered a cease-fire declared June 13. However, daily violence has prevented the agreement from fully taking hold, and both sides warn it is in danger of collapse.
Mr. Indyk's comments suggested a measure of U.S. exasperation with both sides.
Former President Clinton devoted much time in search of a Middle East settlement. President Bush had sought to take a more hands-off approach, but his administration has also been active recently.
CIA Director George Tenet mediated the cease-fire, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was in the region last week in an attempt to solidify the truce.

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