NEW YORK Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that President Bush deliberately used the word “Palestine” at the United Nations on Saturday to indicate U.S. support for a Palestinian state.
It was the first official use of the word by an American president.
“The president quite deliberately” used the taboo name “Palestine,” Mr. Powell said on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” referring to Mr. Bush’s address to the General Assembly.
“If one is moving forward with a vision of two states side by side, it’s appropriate to call those two states what they will be, Israel and Palestine,” Mr. Powell said.
Democrats speaking of Palestinian territories or areas have never called them Palestine a word previously reserved for the former British mandate that was partitioned into Jewish and Arab regions by the United Nations in 1947.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat welcomed the U.S. bow toward Palestinian statehood despite Mr. Bush’s refusal to meet with him at the U.N. session during the weekend in New York,
“I would like to express my deepest appreciation to what President George Bush declared in his speech yesterday about the necessity to achieve a just peace based on the implementation of [U.N.] resolutions 242 and 338, on the basis of two states, Israel and Palestine, and to expeditiously resume the peace process,” Mr. Arafat said in his own General Assembly address yesterday.
Arab U.N. delegates at the General Assembly, which was delayed nearly two months because of the terrorist attack on New York, also reacted positively to Mr. Bush’s call for “recognized” borders and for his implied acceptance of a future state of Palestine.
“That was music. That was outstanding,” Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Ahmed Aboul Gheit said after the speech.
Arab and other Muslim nations, whose help Mr. Bush needs in the war on terrorism, have repeatedly responded that they want to see progress on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The United States is “working toward the day when two states Israel and Palestine live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders as called for by the Security Council resolutions,” Mr. Bush said in his speech.
The comment renewed a long-standing U.S. commitment to Israeli security. But adding the name “Palestine” for the first time was a signal to the Muslim world that the United States wants a peace that will benefit Arabs as well.
Since the 1993 Oslo accords were signed in Washington, Israeli leaders have accepted the eventual creation of a Palestinian state but have disagreed on its ultimate size and powers.
Yesterday, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the idea of a Palestinian state “is not new to us.”
“It will be the result of negotiations. We don’t negate it,” he said.
Israel favors the creation of a “non-militarized, successful, independent Palestinian state” and would like to see “Palestinians finally as a good neighbor and not just as an angry opponent,” he said in a CNN television interview.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, however, has said that if Mr. Arafat declares a Palestinian state without negotiations with Israel, Israel would seize large chunks of the West Bank and Gaza and annex them to Israel.
Palestinians hope for a state that includes all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that Israel captured from Egypt and Jordan in 1967, including the remains of the Jewish temples in East Jerusalem.
Nabil Shaath, a top aide to Mr. Arafat, said the change in U.S. terminology was positive but called for a meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Arafat.
“We are waiting now for a comprehensive American plan regarding the peace process and the meeting that should take place between President Bush and President Arafat in the White House,” he said.
Mr. Bush has refused to meet Mr. Arafat because the U.S. government holds him responsible for the violence against Israel by radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Mr. Arafat also has not ended armed attacks by members of his own Fatah movement.
Although Mr. Bush did not talk with Mr. Arafat, Mr. Powell did arrange a meeting with him at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where the State Department delegation to the General Assembly is quartered.
Mr. Peres also met separately with Mr. Powell. There was no indication of any breakthrough in the Middle East peace impasse after the meetings, and none had been expected.
At the most, the United States hoped to cool down the anger in the Middle East.
Betsy Pisik contributed to this report.