- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

JERUSALEM Secretary of State Colin L. Powell left Israel yesterday, disappointed after six days of intensive shuttle diplomacy: He was unable to negotiate a cease-fire, win Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank or persuade the Palestinian leadership to halt the terror campaign against the Jewish state.
"Only with the end of the incursion, and with the engagement in security talks, can a cease-fire be achieved in reality as well as rhetoric," he told reporters. He said he would be back to try again, but a senior State Department official told reporters on the flight home it would be at least two to three weeks before a return trip could even be considered.
Undersecretary of State William Burns will remain here, while U.S. regional envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni and CIA Director George J. Tenet who drafted a plan to increase Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on security would return "in the near future."
Judging from the expressions of frustration on all sides, it may be some time before Mr. Powell returns.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was said to be livid after Mr. Powell left his ravaged compound yesterday morning. He appealed to other nations to press the Israelis to withdraw and free him from the crumbling military building where he has been held for three weeks.
"I have to ask the whole international world, excellency President Bush, the United Nations, is this acceptable?" he asked. "That I cannot go outside from this door? Is this acceptable? For how long?"
Nearly screaming with anger, he said: "Do you think this will not reflect in the whole stability and peace in the Middle East?"
Dore Gold, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, blamed the Palestinians for Mr. Powell's limited results. "Secretary Powell goes away with a tangible Israeli timeline to withdraw its forces from Palestinian cities and bring the current operation to a close," he said. "Unfortunately, Yasser Arafat has not reciprocated, has not offered a meaningful cease-fire."
In the past two days, Israeli troops entered predominantly Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and imposed a curfew. The army also returned tanks and soldiers to several villages from which they were earlier withdrawn.
Tank fire was reported yesterday from the Jenin refugee camp, scene of the heaviest fighting of the Israeli military operation. The shooting forced civilian medics digging through the rubble in search of bodies or survivors to halt their work.
In Geneva, officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross called for international search and rescue teams to be sent to the camp, saying some residents reported having heard cries from under the rubble.
A spokesman told Reuters news service there had been no response yet from Israel, where officials were observing the nation's independence day yesterday.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was to have been briefed by Mr. Powell yesterday in Cairo, abruptly canceled the meeting, saying he was "indisposed," U.S. officials said. Instead, the secretary met with Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher during a quick stopover on his way home to Washington.
President Bush nevertheless praised Mr. Powell's efforts on a difficult mission and urged leaders in the region to make good on promises to fight terrorism.
"The Palestinian Authority must act must act on its words of condemnation against terror," the president told cadets at Virginia Military Institute. "Israel must continue its withdrawals, and all Arab states must step up to their responsibilities." All parties, he said, "have a responsibility to stop funding or inciting terror."
Mr. Powell said nothing substantive could happen until the Israelis withdraw.
"We could have a cease-fire declared today," Mr. Powell said. "But what would it mean while one side is still pursuing an operation that they are bringing to a close, but they have not yet brought to a close, and the other side is not yet in a position to respond because the incursion has not yet ended?
"So cease-fire is not a relevant term at the moment, but it will become relevant, I believe very quickly, when the incursion ends."
Mr. Powell took Mr. Arafat to task for not taking a decisive and meaningful stand against suicide bombings and other forms of aggression against Israeli civilians.
"We are disappointed with Chairman Arafat's performance," he said. "We believed all along that he could have done more, and I have made it as clear as I can to him that we are, and have been, disappointed with his performance and it is time for him to make a strategic choice."
He said he warned Mr. Arafat that Washington was not alone in expecting him "to make a strategic choice and lead his people away from violence."
The Palestinian Authority issued a statement Saturday afternoon a full day after the latest lethal bus bombing in central Jerusalem condemning violence against Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
That statement was rejected by the Israelis and received by the United States as insubstantial without corresponding action to make it meaningful.
One area where Mr. Powell's visit may have helped is on Israel's northern border with Syria and Lebanon, where Hezbollah gunmen have not fired rockets onto Israeli territory for nearly a week.
The secretary visited both countries on Tuesday to deliver a stern message.

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