As Israel threatens, Bush tells Jordan king: Arafat must go

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Sep 19 05:54:10 MDT 2003


Bush: Arafat blocks Mideast peace
President, talking with Jordan king, says Palestinian 'has failed as a
leader'


Friday, September 19, 2003
>From Newark Star-Ledger
BY MIKE ALLEN WASHINGTON POST

Three months after relaunching his Middle East peace efforts with a
summit in Jordan, President Bush acknowledged yesterday that the
process is "stalled" and blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Speaking at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, with
Jordan's King Abdullah at his side, Bush departed from his usual
formula of stressing the obligations of both Israel and the
Palestinians, and said Palestinians were responsible for the collapse
of progress amid renewed violence. Bush accused Arafat of undercutting
the anti-terrorism efforts of former Palestinian Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned Sept. 6 after four months in office.

"His efforts were undermined, and that's why we're now stalled," Bush
said. "Mr. Arafat has failed as a leader. ... Prime Minister Abbas was
undermined at all turns by the old order -- that meant Mr. Arafat."

Bush also appeared to put distance between himself and the U.S.-backed
"road map" to peace, which has been his blueprint for progress in the
region and is based on reciprocal efforts by both the Israelis and
Palestinians. Bush said he is "still committed to peace, because I
believe the vast majority of people want peace," and said he is
"committed to the road map."

"But I'll remind those who focus on the road map that the first thing
the road map said was that there must be security in order for peace
to advance, that there must be a collective effort to fight off
terror," he said. "Mr. Arafat has failed in that effort."

Arafat's stock among the Palestinians, however, has never seemed
higher.

Incoming Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has asked Arafat and
his Fatah political party to select most of his new Cabinet in a move
that would leave Arafat firmly in control of the government.

Palestinian officials said the selection process was aimed at
insulating Qureia from internal strife that forced his predecessor,
Abbas, to resign.

Even so, a Cabinet packed with Fatah members also could give Qureia a
single voice of support to pursue Palestinian concessions toward
Israel and the United States, the main broker of the talks that broke
down in late August. The two countries want the Palestinian Authority
to dismantle extremist groups that have carried out terror attacks
against Israelis during the intifada, or uprising, of the last three
years.

No Palestinian leader has been willing to take that step, insisting it
would lead to civil war.

Arafat has been making a widely publicized effort this week to get
Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to
agree to a new cease-fire. Arafat apparently believes that such an
agreement would make it more difficult politically for Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon to expel him from the country, as Sharon and
other Israeli leaders have been threatening to do recently.

Arafat told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot in an interview published
yesterday that Hamas is sending positive signals about a new truce and
the smaller Islamic Jihad is ready to declare a cease-fire as well.
"Up to now, the results are positive, there is a positive outlook from
their perspective," Arafat said.

But when asked whether he would take action against the two groups,
Arafat replied: "How should we disarm them? Don't your murderous acts
lead to a retaliation?"

Arafat and Fatah Central leaders met yesterday in the West Bank city
of Ramallah to choose candidates for at least 15 of the minimum 23
ministerial posts in Qureia's Cabinet. The prime minister-designate
plans to go to the Gaza Strip today to continue consultations with
Palestinian legislators and the party faithful before a final slate of
nominees is unveiled in the coming days.

The Bush administration, meanwhile, has enlisted European and Arab
allies to pressure Arafat to yield more control, including giving a
new prime minister full control of security services.

At Camp David yesterday, Bush said: "The people of the Palestinian
territory must understand if they want peace, they must have
leadership who is absolutely 100 percent committed to fighting off
terror."

"It is very difficult to stay on a road to peace when there are
terrorists bombing and killing people," he added. "That's what must be
stopped. In order for there to be a peace, we must stop terror. And it
requires a collective effort. All people are responsible."

Bush said the world looks forward to supporting an economically viable
Palestinian state but added: "The first thing that must happen is an
absolute condemnation and defeat of those forces who will kill
innocent people in order to stop a peace process from going forward."

King Abdullah, who was staying at the presidential retreat overnight
with his wife, was the first Middle Eastern leader whom Bush has met
with since Abbas resigned, a development that came as a bitter
disappointment for Bush and his aides. The administration had backed
Abbas fervently while refusing to deal with Arafat.

The Jordanian leader said his discussions with Bush would include the
road map's provision for monitoring to ensure that both sides are
fulfilling their obligations. "I think it's more important now to see
how we can move the process back on track," Abdullah said. "We're
talking now about the principle of getting the movement forward again,
and Israelis and Palestinians engaging positively in the right
direction."

Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told reporters the
peace process is in a "lull," and said the administration wants an
"empowered" Palestinian prime minister "who can deliver on the
obligations of the road map." Asked whether Qureia was empowered, she
said: "We don't know."
KRT News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report



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