- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

Prime Minister Ehud Barak met President Clinton at the White House last night to seek peace as violence continued in the Middle East and hard-line Islamic states called for Israel's defeat.

"Israel wants peace," said Mr. Barak, speaking in Hebrew to Israeli reporters after meeting for more than two hours with Mr. Clinton.

He did not disclose details of the talks or say that any progress was made in resolving the Middle East crisis.

But Mr. Barak said the talks focused on strengthening U.S.-Israeli ties, which he said "support U.S. global interests" as well as help Israel resist surrounding regional hostility.

"I had extensive discussions with President Clinton" aimed at finding "an end to violence and stabilizing the situation" in the Middle East, said Mr. Barak in English.

He dismissed the Palestinian uprising, armed attacks on Israel and pressure by Islamic nations meeting in Qatar.

"Israel strives for peace around the negotiating table," he said.

Asked about calls at an Islamic summit yesterday and today in Qatar for Islamic states to cut relations with Israel, and by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for continuing "jihad" or holy war against Israel, Mr. Barak said, "This is not the way."

"We expect that the governments and peoples of the free world will make up their minds and decide if jihad or negotiated agreements" are the correct way to resolve disputes."

"I think negotiated agreements are more appropriate at the entrance to the 21st century," said Mr. Barak, a former general who became an advocate of peace with the Palestinians after decades of fighting them as a soldier.

While Mr. Barak flew to meet Mr. Clinton, Mr. Arafat told the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Qatar that the Palestinians were determined to continue "the resistance of the occupation."

"Despite the heavy human losses, which exceed more than 200 martyrs and over 9,000 injured … our people are determined, more than at any other time, to continue their holy struggle in the al-Aqsa uprising with the help of our brothers and friends," he told the 56-nation OIC summit yesterday.

Saudi Arabia, which was defended from Iraq by the United States during the Persian Gulf war, yesterday endorsed calls by hard-line countries such as Iraq and Iran for Islamic nations to cut all ties with Israel.

But the three Islamic states with full diplomatic relations with Israel Egypt, Jordan and Turkey said they would not cut those ties.

Mr. Barak arrived several hours late because his plane turned back toward Israel to deal with a Russian plane that was hijacked to Israel Saturday night.

When the Russian aircraft landed safely and a Chechen hijacker was seized, Mr. Barak's plane turned around again over Greece and resumed its journey to Andrews Air Force Base, where it landed around 6 p.m. last night.

The Israeli leader also considered turning back to Israel a second time when he learned of the death from cancer of Leah Rabin, widow of former Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish zealot after signing a peace pact with the Palestinians.

She had carried on the peace work of her slain husband and only 10 days before her death had urged Mr. Barak to send dovish Israeli politician Shimon Peres to meet with Mr. Arafat in a vain effort to restore the peace process.

After the Barak-Clinton meeting ended around 9 p.m., a senior administration official said that the two leaders agreed there is no military solution to the crisis in the Middle East.

"There was a clear understanding that there is no military solution to the problem there will have to be a political solution," said the official.

"Violence won't bring it to an end, and force won't bring it to an end."

Mr. Barak did not agree to stop responding with force to the attacks from the Palestinian uprising, the official said.

"We have had discussions on restraining the use of force and live fire to minimize casualties," said the official, but he added that Mr. Clinton did not ask Mr. Barak to stop using U.S.-made helicopters in clashes with the Palestinians.

"Mr. Barak did focus on the U.S. doing all it can with the Palestinians" to bring about an end to the violence, the official said.

The Middle East peace process has disintegrated since Sept. 28 into a free-for-all that Israel's acting foreign minister yesterday called "a miniwar."

Yesterday, Israeli troops shot and killed a teen-ager and wounded about 25 other Palestinians.

And Palestinian gunmen killed an Arab suspected of helping Israel target Hussein Abayat, a militia commander in Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction, who was killed in a helicopter attack near Bethlehem on Thursday, Israeli Army Radio said.

Also, a Jewish settler shot a teen-age Palestinian stone thrower in the legs and two roadside bombs exploded in the Gaza Strip, but no one was hurt.

Mr. Barak's talks at the White House followed a meeting between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Arafat on Thursday, after which no progress was reported in ending the violence.

White House officials insist that both Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat need to carry out promises made Oct. 17 at Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, to publicly call for an end to violence and for Israel to pull back the tanks and troops ringing Palestinian cities and towns.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said the talks between Mr. Barak and Mr. Clinton were aimed to end the violence and restart peace talks.

Mr. Ben-Ami warned on Israeli television that the mini-intifada that began Sept. 28 after the visit to Jerusalem's sacred Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif by hawkish Israeli politician Ariel Sharon had evolved from attacks by stone-throwing youths into a wider and deeper conflict.

"When people in uniform shoot at other people in uniform, I call it a war or you could call it a miniwar," he said.

A shadow was cast on the peace efforts in Washington by calls at the Muslim summit for cutting off all ties to Israel. Even U.S. ally Saudi Arabia joined with such traditionally anti-Israel and anti-American countries as Iraq, Iran and Syria in calls to cut ties.

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah spoke of a holy struggle against Israel and blamed the United States for the collapse of the Middle East peace process.

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