- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

Members of Congress say the Bush administration has told them it plans to send American troops to the Middle East as peacekeepers, if peace is ever achieved between the warring factions.
Lawmakers also say top U.S. officials need to get more directly involved in trying to end the escalating violence between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday that Gen. Anthony Zinni "told me on Tuesday that there is a plan to have a very limited number" of U.S. troops deployed as peacekeepers, if "we were ever to stabilize the situation" between the Israelis and Palestinians. Gen. Zinni has been trying unsuccessfully to arrange a cease-fire amid a rash of Palestinian suicide bombings.
"It's something that I would be willing to consider," said Mr. Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who was interviewed on CBS' "Face the Nation" in Rome following talks with several Middle East leaders, including Yasser Arafat, in recent days.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who also appeared on the show, was asked if he would consider U.S. troops as peacekeepers in the Middle East if conditions were stabilized.
"In that context, yes, and with European forces as well," said Mr. Biden.
The Washington Times reported Sept. 10 that the Army School of Advanced Military Studies has devised a plan for enforcing a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord that would require about 20,000 well-armed troops stationed throughout Israel and a newly created Palestinian state. However, at that time, there were no plans to put American soldiers in the Middle East to police such an agreement.
U.S. troops are part of a multinational peacekeeping force that has patrolled the Sinai Desert between Israel and Egypt since those nations signed a peace treaty in 1979.
On CBS yesterday, Mr. Biden and Mr. Specter said they believe President Bush needs to get more personally involved in trying to resolve the Middle East crisis.
"I think there needs to be something dramatic done, and that means the president has to step up his involvement," Mr. Biden said.
But Sens. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, interviewed on CNN's "Late Edition," said they believe the president is doing all he can.
"I frankly think the administration is trying everything it knows. This is one of the toughest problems that has ever existed in our foreign policy," said Mr. Feingold.
The senators were questioned in the aftermath of four back-to-back Palestinian suicide bombings. There were two attacks yesterday. In the first, a suicide bomber killed 15 persons and wounded 40 at a crowded restaurant in the Israeli city of Haifa. Two hours later, seven persons were wounded when a bomber blew himself up in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the West Bank.
Suicide bombs wounded 32 persons in a Tel Aviv restaurant Saturday night and killed two at a supermarket in Jerusalem on Friday.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush denounced the attacks. "The president condemns these acts of terrorism," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where Mr. Bush spent the Easter weekend at his ranch.
On Saturday, Mr. Bush condemned the wave of suicide bombings and expressed disappointment that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has not done more to quell the violence.
Mr. Bush demanded that Mr. Arafat "stand up and condemn" the suicide attacks and use his own forces to stop them. Mr. Bush placed the blame for the latest violence on the Palestinians and said he understood the Israelis' need to defend themselves.
The president did not call for Israeli troops to withdraw from Mr. Arafat's Ramallah compound in the seaside town of Netanya.
A report yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" said the Palestinian Intifada, a group made up of Mr. Arafat's own representatives and the leaders of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, has issued a leaflet warning that they are calling for attacks on American targets in the Middle East. The threat is "in response to what they say is U.S. bias towards Israel," according to Fox.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said if that report is true, it sounds as if the Palestinian Authority is declaring war against the United States.
"Unfortunately, it's not surprising, because these terrorists who are carrying out the suicide bombings against innocent civilians in Israel are cut from the same cloth as the 19 terrorists who flew those planes and killed more than 3,000 Americans on September 11," said Mr. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in the 2000 election.
On Fox, he said he's afraid Palestinian nationalism has been "hijacked" by a "fanatical group of terrorist extremists," whose goal is not Palestinian statehood, but the "annihilation of Israel." He cited what he described as "some inconsistency" in the Bush administration's pronouncements and policies with regard to the situation. And he agrees with Senate colleagues who believe top-level administration officials need to get directly involved.
Mr. Lieberman yesterday recommended that Mr. Bush send Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the Middle East to try to "bring the parties together to talk about a political settlement," possibly based on the "hopeful parts" of the Saudi peace proposal. He also said Mr. Powell should demand from Palestinians a "clear statement that their goal is statehood," not the end of Israel.


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