- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

The United States yesterday placed the responsibility for escalating Middle East violence squarely on Yasser Arafat, encouraging many Israelis to believe their country has a free hand to deal with Palestinian militants.
Israeli military leaders meanwhile said they expect more attacks on civilians inside Israel by Palestinian terrorists. Israel pledged it would respond with strength to such attacks.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell phoned Mr. Arafat yesterday to ask that he rein in militants attacking Israel.
But Mr. Powell who did not make a similar call to ask Israel's leaders for restraint rejected Mr. Arafat's request to send special envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States has in the past asked both sides to avoid actions that can inflame tensions.
"But at this juncture we think that steps by Chairman Arafat to end the violence and to end arms smuggling are what's important," he said.
"We don't consider that there's any excuse for the kind of terrorism that has existed, nor is there any excuse for not taking effective steps to stop that terrorism."
In Israel, the Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper quoted military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash as telling legislators to expect Palestinian attacks that will be "worse than what we have experienced so far in Israeli cities."
Demands for revenge sounded yesterday at funerals attended by more than 15,000 Arafat supporters and Hamas militants for Yousef Soragji, 42, leader of the Hamas military wing in the West Bank and a mastermind of several suicide bombings in Israel, and three of his comrades.
The four died Tuesday in Nablus when Israeli commandos attacked a bomb factory that Israel's West Bank commander, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan, said was the biggest ever uncovered by Israeli forces.
Later Tuesday, a lone Palestinian gunman from the Al Aqsa Brigades, linked to Mr. Arafat's Fatah organization, was killed after he opened fire on a downtown Jerusalem bus stop and wounded 18 persons, two of whom died yesterday.
Hamas yesterday warned of "all-out war" in retaliation for the attack on the Nablus bomb factory, and Israel also promised to respond to the mowing down of civilians Tuesday in Jerusalem.
Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman said the Palestinian Authority could not enforce a cease-fire.
"Israeli guns are being pointed to our heads," he told the Associated Press. "We are not able to implement any of our commitments."
Nevertheless, the struggle to reopen a peace dialogue continued in Paris, where leaders of the Palestinian and Israeli legislatures met and called for outside help to halt the violence.
Knesset Speaker Avram Burg and Palestinian Legislative Council Chairman Abu Ala said the region could go up in flames without international action to bring both sides to the negotiating table.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer said yesterday that the United States is "not going to solve the Arab-Israel conflict" and called on those involved to solve it.
Supporters of Israel meanwhile hailed what they saw as a shift in U.S. policy.
Repeated criticism of Mr. Arafat with no similar call for Israeli restraint is "a marked departure from nearly two decades of nominal American even-handedness," wrote commentator Bradley Burston in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.
Washington-based analyst Robert Satloff said the Bush administration has realized, since the capture of a ship loaded with weapons bound for Gaza, that Mr. Arafat is behind the region's violence.
"The administration is moving towards a policy where Arafat is, a priori, not a partner," said Mr. Satloff, head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Arafat has defined himself out of the peace process."
State Department officials have in the past condemned armed Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory and targeted killings of suspected terrorists.
But there has been no public criticism of recent Israeli actions to surround Mr. Arafat in Ramallah with tanks or to occupy other Palestinian areas such as the town of Tulkarm, where militants were seized after house-to-house searches.
Israelis also are encouraged by the fact that Mr. Arafat was snubbed by most of the nine U.S. congressional delegations that visited Israel in the past two weeks.
The Palestinians accuse Mr. Sharon of deliberately provoking the violence with the targeted killing of militants whenever there has been a few days of peace.

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