- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

President Bush's top foreign policy advisers said yesterday that Yasser Arafat already has lost his last chance to be regarded by the administration as a credible participant in Middle East peace negotiations.
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said she doubts the administration will hold any high-level meetings with the Palestinian leader and that the United States would cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority should he be re-elected in January.
Interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," Miss Rice said that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "shortly after the Passover massacre [in Israel] around Easter time, went to Chairman Arafat and told him, 'This may be our last meeting with you, because unless you can show a different direction, the United States is eventually going to have to say that you can't or won't get it done.'"
Asked if that was Mr. Powell's last meeting with Mr. Arafat, Miss Rice said, "It probably is, because when you say something like that, you have to mean it."
Mr. Powell discussed his exchange with Mr. Arafat in multiple appearances on network news talk shows yesterday.
"At the moment, we are not dealing with him," the secretary said on "Fox News Sunday." Pressed on whether administration officials might meet with Mr. Arafat, Mr. Powell said, "I don't expect so, because his leadership is flawed."
"I have no plans to meet with him. At the moment, I can't imagine such a situation. I am trying to find ways to meet with other leaders within the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian community who are willing to move in a positive direction," the secretary said on ABC's "This Week."
On CBS, "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer noted that Mr. Powell had long argued with others in the administration that it had to deal with Mr. Arafat because he is the Palestinian leader. But Mr. Powell said yesterday that Mr. Arafat's time has passed.
"I worked for 18 months to try to put in place a plan that would allow Chairman Arafat to show his leadership, but he missed all of these opportunities" by failing to bring the violence under control, he said.
What's more, Mr. Powell said, there also were "continuing indications that there was complicity [between the suicide-bombers and] the senior levels of the Palestinian Authority."
Miss Rice and Mr. Powell expounded on Mr. Bush's declaration last week that the United States will not accept Mr. Arafat as a leader, even if he wins re-election. The president also threatened that his administration will cut off millions in aid if Palestinians do not adopt the sweeping political and security reforms he has demanded as condition for establishing an independent Palestinian state.
Miss Rice reinforced the defunding threat on NBC's "Meet the Press." She criticized the Palestinian Authority for its "corruption" and its ties to terrorists.
She made clear that the administration opposes further financial aid to the Arafat regime. "We're going to try to continue to get [humanitarian assistance to] the Palestinian people through nongovernmental organizations, but as for monies that go to the Palestinian Authority we see no reason to put that in hands where it might be misspent," she told show host Tim Russert.
Mr. Russert asked Miss Rice if the "smoking gun" in Mr. Bush's decision to seek Mr. Arafat's ouster was a document the former was shown by an Israeli military attache that said Mr. Arafat had given $20,000 to a terrorist group that funded suicide bombers.
"That was an important piece of information to the president, but the president has been forming this view of the Palestinian Authority for some time," she said, adding:
"I would point back quite a long time ago to the concerns we had about the ship that was bringing weapons from Iran into the Palestinian territories. I would point to repeated calls to Chairman Arafat to use his considerable authority to stop terrorist attacks against the Israelis, to organize his security forces in a way that they are not supporting terrorism but actually breaking up terrorism."
"How can you work with a leadership that on the one hand says it wants a peace process, and, on the other hand, continues to work with terrorists who are undermining the peace process?" she asked.
Mr. Arafat, speaking via satellite link yesterday to an audience of business and political leaders in Switzerland, offered to meet Mr. Bush "any time, anywhere" to promote Middle East peace, Reuters news agency reported. But Mr. Arafat said it is "impossible to achieve reform" while Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territory remained "complete and total."
Miss Rice stressed that the Israelis also have responsibilities if they and the Palestinians are ever to live side by side in peace. "Perhaps the most important one will be, as the security situation hopefully improves, to restore freedom of movement" to the Palestinians, she said.
"We are very concerned that the Palestinian people are not able to work. We are very concerned they are not able to move freely in their towns," she added.
In an interview on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer," Miss Rice said Israel should let Palestinian workers enter Israel, but Israeli foreign policy adviser Dore Gold called such a proposal naive.
"Right now, if we let masses of Palestinian workers come back into Israel, there will be terrorist organizations that will exploit our opening, infiltrate suicide bombers into Tel Aviv, into Haifa, into Jerusalem and cause large-scale deaths of Israeli citizens," Mr. Gold said on CNN in an interview from Jerusalem.
Some leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Russian President Vladimir Putin have warned the White House that it could live to regret its push for Mr. Arafat's ouster, if someone more radical than he wins the Palestinian election.


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