Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with President Bush yesterday and later told reporters that Israel would continue to offer the Palestinians peace, but only when attacks on Israelis cease.
The Palestinians must “learn the language of [former Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat and [former Jordanian King] Hussein,” Mr. Peres said.
Both Arab leaders made peace with Israel.
Mr. Peres spoke as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat urged non-aligned nations meeting in South Africa to condemn Israel, and as his wife, Suha Arafat, voiced hatred for the Jewish state in a magazine interview.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, after meeting with Mr. Peres Wednesday, told reporters that the United States would “do everything we can to bring down the level of violence.”
But, he said, “Dialogue cannot really get under way until violence is brought down, significantly down.”
Mr. Peres said yesterday he still considers Mr. Arafat to be a partner in the peace process and voiced regret that the Palestinians are suffering economic and physical damage from the conflict that began in September.
He said the proposals that were on the table at Camp David before the new uprising broke out last year would not be on the table when new talks begin.
With the dovish Mr. Peres in Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered his most ominous warning yet to Palestinian militants, saying that he had given the Israeli military “freedom beyond imagining” in the battle against terror.
“There are things we will tell the public about,” Mr. Sharon said Tuesday. “There are things we will deny and there are things that will remain hidden forever.”
Mr. Sharons statement came during a condolence call in the West Bank settlement of Ofra. One of its residents, Assaf Hershkovitz, was killed in a roadside ambush Tuesday, three months after his father had similarly been killed.
When the widow of this weeks victim asked Mr. Sharon, “Where is the old Arik?” — a use of Mr. Sharons nickname that conjured up the image of the tough general he once was — he replied, “Believe me, this is the same Arik.”
While not explicitly dissociating himself from the efforts of Mr. Peres to achieve a cease-fire with the Palestinians, Mr. Sharon made it clear that he held out little hope for one.
“I dont believe a word the Palestinians say,” he said. “All the Palestinian organizations are taking part today in terror activity against Israel.”
Mrs. Arafat said she refuses to associate with Israeli social institutions since the Israelis are “responsible for the problems our children have.”
“I have always rejected normalizing relations with women,” she was quoted as saying by a Saudi magazine. “They always invite me to their functions and I categorically refuse because I hate Israel.”
Mrs. Arafat mainly lives in Paris and has kept a low profile since a 1999 meeting with then-U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the West Bank during which the Palestinian first lady said Israeli troops had used “poison gas” on Palestinians that led to “an increase in cancer cases among Palestinian women and children.”
* Abraham Rabinovich contributed to this article from Jerusalem.