- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

President Bush yesterday threw his support behind Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's insistence on an end to Middle East violence before Israel meets Palestinian demands for an end to settlement growth and a reopening of Arab towns.
"The cycle of violence must be broken," Mr. Bush said at a joint White House news conference before entering a closed-door meeting with the Israeli leader.
A plan put forward by former Sen. George Mitchell, which has become the main blueprint for peace moves, "is a sequential process," Mr. Bush said.
"Step one is to break the cycle, and we have been on the phone with all parties all the time … urging the cycle of violence be broken. And progress is being made."
Mr. Sharon said after the meeting that there must be "complete quiet" for 10 days, after which he expected a six-week cooling-off period to be followed by Israeli moves to freeze settlement expansion and other confidence-building measures.
Mr. Bush said he was sending Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the Middle East to "try to advance the process, to make peace more real, and he's going to meet not only with the Israelis, he'll be meeting with the Palestinians as well, urging — urging the cycle of violence to be broken."
Mr. Powell arrives today in Egypt and will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Paris for a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah before returning to Washington on Saturday, according to a tentative State Department schedule.
Mr. Sharon said that while there had been less violence since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israel agreed to a cease-fire mediated by CIA director George J. Tenet two weeks ago, five Israelis had died and that was too many. Mr. Bush agreed.
"We adopted the Mitchell report, and we received the Tenet document," Mr. Sharon said.
"And we'll be willing to continue. The one thing that we are looking for is, first of all, will be full cessation of hostilities and terror and incitement. If that will happen, I'm fully convinced that the day will come and we'll have peace in the Middle East."
Mr. Bush said, "I know there's a level of frustration, but there is progress being made, and for that progress, we are grateful. The prime minister has shown a lot of patience in the midst of a lot of … casualty.
"But progress is being made. Is it as fast as we'd like? No, it's not. But the fundamental question my administration makes is, Are we making progress? Is peace closer today than it was yesterday?
"We believe the answer is yes, and therefore the secretary of state leaves tonight to try to advance the process, to make peace more real."
Mr. Bush told the Israeli leader — who was on his second visit to Mr. Bush at the White House, while Mr. Arafat has yet to be invited that Mr. Sharon has "got no better friend than the United States."
Mr. Sharon has long battled against a reputation for tough, if not intemperate, action as a military leader in all of Israel's wars.
However, since the bombing of a Tel Aviv disco that killed 20 young Israelis on June 1, he has earned international praise for his decision not to retaliate.
"If I didn't think progress was being made, I would not be sending the secretary of state to the Middle East," Mr. Bush said. "We believe we have a further opportunity to advance the peace process. This is an important statement of the progress that's being made."
Mr. Sharon said: "The Israeli position is that we can negotiate only, and we would like to negotiate only when it will be a full cessation of hostilities, terror, violence and incitement. Otherwise, I don't think we'll be able to reach a peace which will really make all of us committed."
As Mr. Sharon met Mr. Bush, Israel tightened its blockade of the West Bank city of Hebron after a gunbattle with Palestinians.
Witnesses said the army had moved piles of rocks and mounds of earth into place to enforce the blockade around the city. Areas near the city's Jewish settlements were under curfew, with every shop shuttered and streets deserted.
Twelve Palestinians and five Israelis, including a 7-year-old son of settlers, were wounded Monday in the city, a frequent flashpoint in the Palestinians' 9-month-old revolt against Israeli occupation.
The Jerusalem Brigade, armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, said in a statement it had carried out the attack. Palestinian Preventive Security chief Jibril Rajoub told Israel Army radio that closures of Palestinian cities would not end the violence.
"Just the opposite. It will create tension and an escalation," he said.
A senior administration official, speaking to reporters before accompanying Mr. Powell to the Middle East, told reporters at the White House yesterday that Mr. Powell would "be very clear with Arafat on the need for there to be a 100 percent effort to halt violence and incitement."

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