- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry said yesterday that he thinks Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat engineered the past five days of violence in the Middle East in order to regain his position as underdog in the peace process.
Hopes of salvaging that process shift today to Paris, where Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright meets with Mr. Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
But Mr. Arafat so far has failed to issue a strong call for his people to end violence and seems to hope that Palestinian deaths will help him win concessions from Israel, Mr. Ivry told reporters and editors at a luncheon at The Washington Times.
Mr. Ivry said he regretted that Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon had visited the Temple Mount, or Haram as-Sharif, on Thursday, providing a pretext for the attacks on Israelis that began the following day.
"Barak would prefer that he not go to the Temple Mount, but he would not stop him" because it is the right of every Jew to go to Judaism's holiest place, he said.
Palestinian gunmen battled Israeli soldiers yesterday at isolated army posts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as both sides defied a cease-fire call on the eve of a U.S. attempt to salvage peacemaking, according to Associated Press reports.
Yesterday's death toll of five was the lowest since the fighting began last week. In addition, 206 persons were injured, according to the Palestinians. Overall, 56 persons have died and at least 1,300 have been wounded, the vast majority Palestinian.
Mr. Ivry insisted, "The violence has been controlled and orchestrated by the Palestinian side. If they stop [attacking our forces], there won't be casualties.
"My opinion is that [Mr. Arafat] was ready to lose a lot of people to get back the position of underdog," which he lost when he was portrayed as being responsible for the failure of the Camp David negotiations in July.
President Clinton and others made clear after the talks that Mr. Barak had taken greater risks to reach an agreement at Camp David than had Mr. Arafat.
If the two meet face to face today in Paris, it will be only the second time they have spoken directly since Camp David. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said yesterday that CIA Director George Tenet will join Mrs. Albright "to assist in the discussion on security matters."
It still had not been decided last night whether Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat would meet one another or simply speak separately with U.S. officials.
Tomorrow, Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat travel to Cairo to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in yet another peace effort.
Like Mr. Ivry, Israel's acting foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, complained in Jerusalem yesterday that Mr. Arafat has failed to end the fighting.
"We have been told repeatedly that Chairman Arafat issued instructions to his people to stop the violence, to control the riots. We did not see that on the ground," he said.
Other international leaders, however, have called on both Israel and the Palestinians to end the violence.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan lamented in Strasbourg, France, yesterday that the situation has ceased to move forward.
"We now seem to have an almost all-out war in a highly populated area, and it is incumbent on the leaders to do whatever they can to rein in their forces," he said.
As he spoke, the U.N. Security Council worked with little effect to seek a common position on the fighting.
Mr. Ivry said the fighting would make it harder for Mr. Barak to win Israeli approval in a referendum for any peace plan he might negotiate.
He noted that while some Arabs might see Israel as weak because it withdrew from Lebanon while under attack by Hezbollah guerrillas, the determination to stand and fight is different when fighting is close to home.
"If the threat comes to our door, we are tough," said Mr. Ivry. "Lebanon was not on our doorstep."
He said, "There is damage to the peace process … no doubt about it," because there is now a loss of trust.
"How can we proceed with the peace process if they use violence as a bargaining point?"
However, he said it was important that the "United States keep the options to reopen talks" and noted that U.S. calls on both sides to stop violence had to be neutral.
Mr. Ivry said he and other Israeli officials are "in some ways more concerned" about Israeli-Arab violence that erupted Sunday in Nazareth and other towns "than the violence in the West Bank."
The Israeli government released Monday plans to improve roads and schools in Israeli-Arab towns and villages and raise the standard of living for the minority Arabs, which make up about 18 percent of the population. But Mr. Ivry said, "I'm not sure that will solve this issue."
Israel yesterday rejected any international investigation into the violence, a spokesman for Mr. Barak said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the European Union indirectly accused Israel yesterday of aggravating the violence.
The EU "considers that the disproportionate recourse to force can only further aggravate the situation, increase the already particularly heavy toll of deaths and injuries, and cause the prospect of peace to recede," said a statement issued by the French EU presidency.
Israel's deputy chief of staff said yesterday he expected the fighting to get worse before it abates.
"Our working hypothesis is that the worst is yet to come and that this wave of violence will continue. Lethal attacks are perhaps only a matter of time, and the Islamist Hamas and Jihad movements will try to exploit the situation to make their presence felt too," Gen. Moshe Yaalon told Israel radio.

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