- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

Kurtzer under siege

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer came under attack yesterday for comments that some interpreted as a call for protests against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The Council of Jewish Settlements demanded his recall and two members of the Israeli parliament also criticized the ambassador.

Meanwhile, Israeli Radio and the newspaper Ha'aretz reported that the Bush administration was considering closing the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The State Department yesterday declined to comment on those reports.

The settlers group said in a statement, "We demand the immediate return of Mr. Kurtzer to Washington, where he will learn that one must not yield to terrorists or seek compromises with them.

"He will also learn that diplomats have no business interfering in the internal affairs of other states."

Mr. Kurtzer on Wednesday urged students at the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace to pressure the Israeli government to reach "reconciliation" and "reasonable compromise" with the Palestinians.

"You are the people. You are the ones who choose your government, and you are the ones who define who rules and who doesn't rule," he said, according to reports from the Jerusalem Post. "They need to hear from you that you want peace, that you want reconciliation, that you want reasonable compromise."

Mr. Kurtzer, a career civil servant who was appointed to his current post by the Bush administration last year, also told his audience about the college protests of his own youth, but insisted he was not urging civil disobedience.

"My generation used to take over the offices of college deans," he said. "I don't recommend that. But it was a kind of political action that let the power structure know we wanted a change. … It worked, over time."

The Jerusalem Post quoted a "senior diplomat" saying Mr. Kurtzer's statement sounded like a call for public protests and said his remark was "way out of line."

Zvi Hendel, a member of parliament from the National Union party, denounced Mr. Kurtzer for "blatant interference in Israel's internal affairs." Mr. Hendel earlier this month called Mr. Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew, a "little Jewboy" for similar remarks. He later apologized.

The U.S. Embassy insisted that Mr. Kurtzer was not interfering in Israeli domestic affairs.


India-Pakistan danger

The U.S. ambassador to India believes tension between India and Pakistan has eased a little since last week's visit by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

But danger remains as the rival nuclear powers continue on full alert across their border, especially in the disputed Kashmir region, Ambassador Robert Blackwill told reporters yesterday in New Delhi.

"Obviously the tension between India and Pakistan, including along the [Kashmir border] continues to be dangerous," he said, according to a dispatch by Agence France-Presse.

"It is worrisome when you have two armies next to one another fully forward deployed and ready. One worries about a spark setting it off."

India and Pakistan have moved thousands of troops along the border between the two countries since a Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament. India has blamed Pakistani militants opposed to Indian control over part of Kashmir. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is due to visit Washington Feb. 13, this month has pledged to crack down on Islamic extremists.

Mr. Blackwill said Mr. Powell's visit helped "lower the temperature at least to some degree." The ambassador expressed skepticism over reports that terrorist incursions into the Indian part of Kashmir have slowed.


Talbott to Brookings

Strobe Talbott, the former deputy secretary of state, has been named president of the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Talbott is to take over the position at the think tank Sept. 1.

"Strobe has the right combination of intellectual rigor, integrity and dedication to public policy to lead Brookings in the years ahead," James A. Johnson, chairman of the Brookings board of trustees, said yesterday in announcing the appointment.

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