- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

Israel's foreign minister yesterday confirmed a report that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon wants to annex up to half of the West Bank.
But Shimon Peres said he does not see this as a permanent solution to the crisis in the Middle East.
Interviewed yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," the foreign minister was asked about the accuracy of a report yesterday in the London Sunday Telegraph, also published in The Washington Times, that Mr. Sharon has a plan calling for Israel to annex 50 percent of land in the West Bank.
"It's accurate for a while, because that's what Sharon suggests as an interim agreement," Mr. Peres said. "My judgment is they know this is not a solution" and that this is an "unofficial proposal."
Existence of the Sharon plan was disclosed by Ephraim Sneh, the Israeli transport minister, who, like Mr. Peres, is a member of the Labor Party, not Mr. Sharon's Likud Party.
Mr. Sneh told the London paper that the annexation plan is "incompatible with a two-state solution" since it suggests Mr. Sharon wants a Palestinian entity with far less land than envisioned under other peace plans. "It is not realistic," Mr. Sneh said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who appeared on all the network talk shows yesterday, declined to comment on the published reports. Mr. Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press": "Let me talk to Prime Minister Sharon and his foreign policy advisers. I'm not familiar with the view of the minister of transportation."
Mr. Powell said he believes both Mr. Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "understand we have to get to some form of negotiations, a political process that will take us to the desire that all sides have expressed for there to be a Palestinian state by the name of Palestine living side-by-side with a Jewish state, the state of Israel."
The secretary, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said that while Mr. Sharon has "acted vigorously" against "terrorist attacks," he has told Mr. Powell repeatedly that he "remains committed to negotiations that will lead to a Palestinian state."
Adel al Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who will meet with President Bush on Thursday, referred to the West Bank annexation reports yesterday on "Meet the Press."
Mr. Jubeir said the prince's main advice to Mr. Bush will be that the United States "must be engaged" in the Middle East, that it "must restrain Sharon" and "must put the peace process back on its proper track."
"The onus is really on the Israeli government to make a decision to withdraw," he said.
Mr. Powell reiterated that he believes he made "progress" toward peace during his recent visit to the Middle East. "I'm pleased to note this morning that Israeli forces are now out of the towns that we've been following so closely, with the exception of Israeli forces around Chairman Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah and at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem," Mr. Powell said on "Meet the Press," citing pullouts from Nablus, Jenin and sections of Ramallah.
In addition, he said, "the violence has gone down somewhat in recent days as a result of Israeli actions and, perhaps, as a result of some Palestinian leaders wondering whether they were on the right track."
In the NBC interview, Mr. Powell said Israel should loosen its confinement of Mr. Arafat, who remains under house arrest at the Ramallah compound, to increase his opportunities to take steps toward easing hostilities toward Israel.
"I think the more access he is given, the [more] opportunity he is given to show whether or not he can control forces or bring this security situation under control," Mr. Powell said.
On CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," the secretary was asked about an opinion piece by former President Jimmy Carter that appeared yesterday in the New York Times. Mr. Carter wrote that the United States might want to reconsider all the military assistance it provides Israel, citing concerns that the aid may be used illegally.
"We have no plans, at the moment, to restrict any of the support that we provide to our friends and have provided for many years in fact, since President Carter was in office," Mr. Powell said.
He was asked on ABC's "This Week" if it would be beneficial to have Mr. Carter or former President Clinton involved in the crisis. Mr. Clinton has let it be known he's available. "I'm pleased that both President Clinton and President Carter continue to show an interest in the region. I speak to both of them on a regular basis and I don't have a role for either of them at the moment," Mr. Powell replied.


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