- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Israel yesterday rejected Palestinian calls for an international protection force, leaving leaders of both sides headed for Washington with sharply different views on how to stop fighting that has claimed more than 170 lives in the past five weeks.
Despite diplomatic efforts, fighting continued yesterday, with a 15-year-old Palestinian boy killed by a bullet to the chest in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, and a 17-year-old dead in the Gaza Strip with a bullet in his back. Also, bullet wounds cost another 15-year-old boy his sight in both eyes, according to doctors at the Shifa hospital in Gaza.
U.S. officials refused to say if they would veto a resolution setting up a U.N. force as proposed by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat who meets Thursday with President Clinton in Washington.
The proposed U.N. force is expected to be voted on in the Security Council tomorrow.
A U.S. official said efforts were being taken behind the scenes in New York to head off a vote on the U.N. force which is bitterly opposed by Israel.
Israel fears that any U.N. force would be too weak to restrain the Palestinian gunmen and mobs of rock-throwing youths who have attacked Israeli troops daily since Sept. 28.
Instead, the Israelis believe a U.N. force could become a shield used by the Palestinians to block Israeli responses to attacks, as happened in Lebanon.
"If there will be a request for international forces, we will completely oppose it," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday.
Israel is also concerned that it faces entrenched bias at the United Nations, led by the 40 Islamic member nations and by the Non-Aligned Movement of developing countries. Together, they backed a 1976 resolution equating Zionism the Jewish movement for a national homeland with racism.
"The Palestinians have been floating a proposal for the past 10 days or so which is frankly one-sided and biased and terrible," said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We have said we oppose it, and we have urged the Palestinians, if they are really serious about this, to work it out with Israelis. To date, they have not."
Mr. Arafat called for the international force Sunday in an interview on CBS television's "60 Minutes." Previously, he sought to widen the peace process beyond just Palestinians, Israelis and Americans, asking for U.N., European, Russian and other involvement.
"Since the United States has failed to persuade Israel to implement [earlier cease-fire] agreements, there is a need for other parties to be involved in this process," Arafat aide Nabil Aburdeneh said yesterday.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher threw cold water on the Palestinian request.
"I think we've made quite clear we don't think that this is the moment for more U.N. resolutions," Mr. Boucher told reporters yesterday.
He called on Israel and the Palestinians to implement promises to reduce violence made at an Oct. 17 summit with Mr. Clinton at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik.
"We haven't supported any additional U.N. resolutions, and we do think that the way to restore the calm is for both parties to implement completely the agreements at Sharm el Sheik," Mr. Boucher said yesterday.
Despite widespread protests in the Arab and the wider Muslim world against the United States, Mr. Boucher insisted the United States remained an avenue to restarting the Oslo peace process.
Since 1993, that process has seen Israel turn over the Gaza Strip and 40 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control.
"The United States role in this process is based on the desire of the parties to have someone, meaning us, who can help them achieve their goals, and that remains the role of the United States and that is what we continue to do," he said.
In a potential sign that the Palestinians are seeking to limit the uprising, a senior official said that there will be no unilateral declaration of statehood this month.
"It's not our intention to declare a state in the coming Central Council session. There were no plans to do so," said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo.

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