- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

U.S. leaders worked the phones as Middle East violence claimed four more Israeli lives yesterday, while in Israel the governing coalition was deeply divided over a plan to reoccupy parts of the West Bank.

President Bush called for "more security" for Israel and renewed his demand for Palestinian action against terrorism during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell meanwhile called six foreign ministers and asked them to pressure Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to end the terrorist attacks.

Despite the efforts, four Israelis were killed and four were wounded in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, where gunmen broke into a house and set it afire. Two of the dead were children.

Israeli soldiers engaged in a gunbattle with the intruders, killing one, the Associated Press reported. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility.

Nineteen Israelis died Tuesday in a Jerusalem bus bombing, and six more were killed Wednesday by a Palestinian suicide bomber at a bus stop.

Reacting to the wave of Palestinian suicide attacks, Mr. Sharon sent troops to take over several West Bank towns, saying they would remain in control until attacks end.

Israeli Labor and leftist leaders opposed taking administrative control over as many as 2 million West Bank Palestinians. But Mr. Bush appeared to view the moves as legitimate acts of self-defense by Israel.

"The president reiterated his determination to push for peace and to find a way to provide more security for Israel and hope for the Palestinian people," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"What the president said vis-a-vis action was that he was looking for action from the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. Most of the conversation was about condolence and sympathy for what Israel is going through."

Mr. Arafat yesterday called for an end to attacks on Israelis, but Mr. Fleischer said the president "is still waiting for him to act."

Mr. Powell's calls went out to the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Russia and the European Union, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Mr. Powell told them they should be "encouraging others, particularly Chairman Arafat, to make responsible statements," Mr. Boucher said.

"When we see Israel suffering these horrible bombings, when we see this kind of violence threatening once again to make progress more difficult, we're keeping in touch with the other players so that we can all work to try to create an environment where forward movement is possible."

U.S. diplomatic and security officials continued the task of crafting a peace plan, which Mr. Bush is expected to spell out in a speech before he leaves for a Group of Eight summit Tuesday.

The speech, postponed because of the latest wave of Palestinian attacks, is intended to give Palestinians hope for an end to Israeli occupation while offering Israel a sense of security from terrorism.

Jordan and Egypt yesterday rejected one of the key elements of the Bush plan: a call for a provisional Palestinian state in the 40 percent of the West Bank and Gaza already turned over to the Palestinian Authority under the 1993 Oslo Accords.

"We cannot understand how we can set up a provisional state. Any Palestinian state must have full sovereignty over Palestinian territory," Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher said at a press conference.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher said, "Only Israeli occupation must be provisional."

In Israel, Labor Party ministers criticized Mr. Sharon's announcement Wednesday that Israel would indefinitely occupy Palestinian towns in response to the latest bombings.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he favored the army's remaining in Palestinian areas "for a week, or two, or three" in order to eradicate terrorist infrastructure but opposed Mr. Sharon's announcement that troops would remain there until terror ceases.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres denied a statement from the prime minister's office that they had supported Mr. Sharon's decision, made at an inner-Cabinet meeting early Wednesday.

After a meeting with Mr. Sharon, Mr. Peres said, "This decision is not intended to reconquer the territories and does not replace Palestinian autonomy. We have no intention of dismantling the autonomy."

In his statement Wednesday, Mr. Sharon said Israel "will respond to every act of terror by seizing Palestinian Authority territory, which will be held by Israel as long as terror continues.

"Additional acts of terror will lead to the seizure of additional territory," he said.

An aide to Mr. Ben-Eliezer said, "There is no legal basis for seizing territory as a punitive measure, and it will not be upheld by the High Court of Justice."

Experts estimate that it would cost Israel $1 billion annually if it resumed responsibility for the Palestinian population of the West Bank.

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