- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Dennis Ross, the architect of the U.S. Middle East policy in the 1990s, said yesterday that the policy collapsed because the Clinton administration failed to hold Yasser Arafat accountable for his promises.

"That was a mistake," said Mr. Ross. "You have to learn from that."

Speaking on the sidelines of a conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mr. Ross said the United States had advance notice of the impending uprising, which scuttled the peace process in September 2000.

Then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon had visited Jerusalem's Temple Mount, sparking protests by Palestinians at the Al Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the site.

"Then we got word that the Palestinians planned a violent, massive demonstration the next day," said Mr. Ross, who left the State Department to join the Washington Institute after serving the Clinton and the first Bush administrations.

"Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called Arafat and said clearly, 'you know we are at an important point of presenting new ideas'" for a peace settlement, said Mr. Ross.

He quoted Mrs. Albright as telling Mr. Arafat: "We can't do it if there is violence you have to control it."

"He made no effort," Mr. Ross said.

Mr. Ross said the Israelis also were "leery of accountability. They took a relaxed view of their obligations."

Israel did not meet deadlines to hand over occupied territory to Palestinian control, failed to allow promised Palestinian commercial freedom and blocked Palestinian fishermen from waters agreed to in the pacts.

However, the United States turned a blind eye to critical Palestinian violations that led to the security problems, Mr. Ross said.

For example, Palestinians had 40,000 men under arms when they were allowed only 30,000, said Mr. Ross.

In addition, Palestinians would arrest militants responsible for terrorist attacks on Israel but then release them.

Israeli Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh, a member of Prime Minister Sharon's inner Cabinet, told the conference yesterday that the "obstacle" to peace is Mr. Arafat, who has been in a "messianic mood the past 18 months."

"Before we resume talks, terror must stop," said Mr. Sneh, who is from the Labor Party, which joined Mr. Sharon's Likud bloc in a national unity government.

Like Mr. Sharon, he said yesterday that the Israeli military operations would continue until completed.

Mr. Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, said Syria and Iran are behind efforts to open a second front on the Lebanon border by arming and allowing Hezbollah to launch rockets on civilian and military targets in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

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