- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

JERUSALEM — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced yesterday a detailed timetable for getting Israelis and Palestinians back to the bargaining table, but a Palestinian shooting attack underscored the difficulty of ending nine months of violence.
Mr. Powell, who met separately with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, appeared to endorse Mr. Arafat's demand for the stationing of foreign monitors in the West Bank and Gaza but later backed away from the idea.
While Mr. Powell shuttled between Jerusalem and Ramallah, Palestinian gunmen fatally shot a 27-year-old woman near her settlement in the West Bank, raising to eight the number of Israelis killed since a tenuous cease-fire was announced more than two weeks ago.
"In my conversations earlier today with Chairman Arafat, we discussed this in considerable detail and he responded to me that he would take every effort he could to end the violence," Mr. Powell said at a joint news conference with Mr. Sharon hours after the attack. Under Mr. Powell's timetable, Palestinians will be tested during a weeklong period for their compliance to the cease-fire, followed by a six-week cooling-off period in which Israel pulls back its troops and Palestinians resume security cooperation.
He did not say when the week would begin.
In the next stage, the two sides would take confidence-building measures outlined in a report issued last month by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, including an Israeli freeze on settlement activity.
Mr. Sharon, who had pushed for a 10-day test period, said he agreed to the timetable.
"We see the continuation of the path forward as a complete and full cease-fire, and a halt to terror, violence and incitement," Mr. Sharon said.
"And when total quiet prevails there will be seven test days to see how the Palestinian Authority fulfills its obligation and, after the seven-day-test, a cooling-off period of six weeks."
Mr. Powell said the plan was "consistent with what we discussed" with Mr. Arafat. But the Palestinian leader, at a separate news conference in Ramallah, refused to say if he had accepted it.
The level of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed has dropped sharply since CIA chief George J. Tenet brokered a cease-fire June 13, but hardly a day has passed without a shooting incident or some other violent clash.
Five of the eight Israelis killed since the truce was announced were residents of settlements in the West Bank. The latest victim, Katya Weintraub, was driving to her home in the Ganim settlement north of Nablus when she came under fire from another car.
Several bullets pierced her chest. Mrs. Weintraub's 4-year-old son, seated in the back seat of the car, was uninjured.
An Israeli woman traveling in a second car was wounded in the hail of gunfire, which came from a vehicle apparently lying in wait at a road junction. Police said there were at least two assailants.
They said an Israeli armored personnel carrier had been stationed at the junction until recently but was pulled back in line with the Tenet cease-fire.
An armed Palestinian group affiliated with Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction issued a statement taking responsibility for the attack and saying it was carried out to avenge the death of one of its cadre this week in an explosion in the West Bank town of Nablus.
Mr. Arafat himself issued a statement saying he had ordered the Palestinian Authority's security forces to arrest the killers.
The shooting drew a harsh warning from Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who said that if Palestinian attacks continued "the pin will be pulled and the hard lives of the Palestinians will be even more intolerable.
"Hell will arrive at their doors," he said. Around 200,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians want to establish their own state.
Mr. Powell, who is scheduled to meet Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat again today, has been trying to cement the cease-fire in a conflict that has already claimed the lives of at least 466 Palestinians and 119 Israelis.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, he said observers could help monitor the cease-fire. "I think there is clear understanding of the need of some kind of monitoring, observer function," Mr. Powell said, without giving details.
The comment touched off a brief storm in Israel, which fiercely opposes the stationing of foreigners in the West Bank and Gaza, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters later that Mr. Powell's comment was a restatement of long-standing U.S. policy and was in no way an endorsement of Palestinian demands and Mr. Powell himself said it would only happen with Israel's consent.
"I had [said] it in the context of what the two sides might decide to do within their own resources or whatever resources might be appropriate by mutual agreement. Not some outside group of forces coming in," Mr. Powell said.
"The word 'force' was used in one of the reports. No such thought, no such consideration [was made], and we had spoken against that kind of intervention previously."
Mr. Arafat has suggested such a force should be drawn from the United Nations, the United States, the European Community and others an idea Mr. Sharon rejected again.
"We never supported U.N. observers," Mr. Sharon said. "We never accepted European observers. I don't think they are needed."
The Bush administration has twice helped Israel scuttle attempts by the Palestinians to win U.N. Security Council approval for an observer force, so backing such a force now would be a change.

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