- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

President Bush yesterday insisted that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemn attacks on Israel, but Mr. Arafat said the fighting would go on until Palestinian flags fly above the ancient walls of Jerusalem.
Mr. Bush also asked Israel to use restraint after its helicopters blasted buildings controlled by Mr. Arafat's Force 17 bodyguards Wednesday to avenge suicide bombings inside Israel.
Yesterday, the violence continued on the ground and Israeli gunships hovered over Arab territory but did not fire missiles again.
"The signal I'm sending to the Palestinians is stop the violence," Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House. "I can't make it any more clear.
"And I hope that Chairman Arafat hears it loud and clear. He's going to hear it again on the telephone today. This is not the first time the message has been delivered."
The president's public remarks were among his strongest to date against the Palestinian leader, whom Israel blames for the 6-month uprising against the Jewish state. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this week called Mr. Arafat "a leader of terror."
Mr. Bush yesterday backed Mr. Sharon's demand that the attacks come to a halt before peace talks resume.
"The violence must cease in order for there to be any meaningful dialogue in the Middle East," the president said.
Mr. Bush demanded that "the Palestinian Authority should speak out publicly and forcibly, in a language that the Palestinian people [understand] to condemn violence and terrorism. It should arrest those who perpetrated the terrorist acts."
Mr. Bush also criticized Israel and said it "should take steps to restore normalcy to the lives of the Palestinian people by easing closures and removing checkpoints."
At Mr. Bush's direction, Secretary of State Colin Powell called Mr. Arafat to relay the message directly, a State Department spokesman said.
Mr. Arafat, however, said earlier yesterday that the intifada, or uprising, would continue "until the Palestinian flag is raised on the walls, churches and mosques of holy Jerusalem."
He spoke at the site hit by Israeli missiles one day earlier.
"The Israeli bombardment, aggression and closure of our cities, villages and bases will not affect the determination of our people to keep the Al-Aqsa uprising going," Mr. Arafat said in Ramallah.
The PLO representative in Washington said yesterday that the intifada is beyond Mr. Arafat's control.
"The intifada is a shakeup people rising up against occupation," said PLO representative Hassan Abdel Rahman, referring to the Arab term for "uprising" that is frequently used by Mr. Arafat. "It is not organized. It is a reaction to occupation."
According to Rashid Khalidi, a professor at the University of Chicago, Mr. Arafat "has no incentive and is not capable of stopping the violence."
"I doubt he's giving orders. He might be able to marginally affect some of it. But if he went against it, he'd get nothing in return and be widely unpopular."
Mr. Bush said he is meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak next week and Jordan's King Abdullah the following week "to seek their help in defusing the tensions" in the Middle East.
The Bush administration continues to avoid the deep personal involvement of the Clinton administration in Middle East affairs but the rising violence has forced the issue through the door.
"We have been fully engaged in the Middle East," Mr. Bush said. "We're on the phone all the time to the leaders. I'm welcoming leaders to come."
But he repeated his belief that "a lasting peace in the region will come only when the parties agree directly on its terms."
"This week, I vetoed an unbalanced U.N. resolution because it tried to [send monitors and] force the adoption of a mechanism on which both parties did not agree," he said.
The intifada broke out Sept. 29 after a visit by Mr. Sharon, who has since been elected prime minister, to the Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem. Since then at least 359 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 69 other Israelis have been killed.
Mr. Arafat's representative in Washington, Mr. Rahman, said Mr. Bush should condemn Israel for the deaths of nearly 400 Palestinians, the wounding of another 20,000, the demolishing of 1,000 homes and uprooting of more than 200,000 trees.
"The president of the United States and American officials must show they value Palestinian life as much as Jewish life and Palestinian blood is as precious as Jewish blood," he said.
The intifada began in reaction to Israel's refusal to allow the return of Arab refugees to Israel, to end Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and to give up the Old City of Jerusalem, say Arab diplomats and analysts.
Yesterday U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized what he called "excessive use of force by Israeli security forces," his spokesman Fred Eckhard said.
Mr. Annan's comments in Switzerland followed his criticism, during this week's Arab summit in Jordan, of Israeli "collective punishment" by closure of Arab cities and towns for security reasons.
Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians in the latest bloodshed in the Gaza Strip yesterday.
Ahmad Helles, secretary general of Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, said after the helicopter attack Wednesday that "every place in Israel is a legitimate target for our fighters and our revolutionaries."
The militant group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing Wednesday that killed two Israeli teen-agers waiting for their ride to school, would continue a "program of resistance," said Mahmoud Zahhar, a senior leader.


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