Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Monday, November 14, 2005

Rice Again Asks Israel and Palestinians to Bridge Divide - New York Times

Rice Again Asks Israel and Palestinians to Bridge Divide - New York TimesNovember 14, 2005
Rice Again Asks Israel and Palestinians to Bridge Divide

JERUSALEM, Nov. 13 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making her fourth visit to Israel this year, again implored Israelis and Palestinians on Sunday to resolve their differences, amid mounting signs of frustration in Washington over the lack of progress since Israel withdrew from Gaza in the summer.

Ms. Rice arrived Sunday evening for a speech on democracy in the Middle East at an Israel-United States forum attended by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and senior American officials from past administrations, and for a memorial service on Monday honoring Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated 10 years ago.

But the visit was portrayed by her aides as principally a continuation of the administration's pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to make the concessions they embraced in principle this year. "The parties have now had the habit of cooperation in the Gaza withdrawal, and it is our hope that they are going to continue to build on that," she said on the plane from Jidda, Saudi Arabia. But while some Americans had hoped for agreements on Israeli and Palestinian steps to follow Gaza coinciding with Ms. Rice's visit, Mr. Sharon said at the forum that an announcement would be made "in a few days."

In Israel, Ms. Rice planned to meet separately on Monday with Mr. Sharon and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

Among the points of contention remaining, despite months of effort by James D. Wolfensohn, the special Middle East envoy, are the establishment of crossings for goods and people into and out of Gaza, a pullback of Israeli troops from West Bank towns and an agreement to arm Palestinian security forces.

Mr. Wolfensohn expressed frustration on Sunday at the inability of Israel and the Palestinians to complete a deal on Palestinian movements into and out of the Gaza Strip. But in remarks to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he repeated a previous criticism, saying Israel did not share his sense of urgency about resolving questions that have kept most Gazans confined to the territory. Mr. Wolfensohn also blamed the Palestinians for some delays, saying he had heard reports that explosives had been found in trucks leaving Gaza for Israel, Haaretz reported on its Web site.

In a related development, Israel announced it was renewing permission for some Palestinians to enter Israel. More than 15,000 Palestinian workers and businesspeople in the West Bank will be allowed in, while more than 3,000 Palestinians in Gaza are receiving the same permission.

In overnight clashes, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian militants, one in the West Bank and one in Gaza, the Israeli military and Palestinian security officials said.

Near Jenin on the West Bank, soldiers fired on three Palestinians who were armed and approaching a military post, the army said. When the Palestinians fled, the soldiers tracked one man to a house, where they found an automatic rifle. A sniffer dog found the Palestinian hiding in bushes outside. The soldiers, suspecting the Palestinian still had a weapon, shot him dead, though the military said no weapon was found on his body. Palestinians identified the man as Shujua Balawi, a member of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

In Gaza, soldiers fatally shot one of two Palestinian men who crawled to the fence along Gaza's perimeter and were planting a bomb, the military and the Palestinian security officials said. The second man fled.

[Israeli police shot dead a member of Hamas in a raid in the West Bank town of Nablus on Monday, Palestinian witnesses and the Israeli Army said, Reuters reported. Hamas issued a statement saying the man killed, Amjad Hanawi, 34, had been one of their leaders in Nablus.]

The forum Ms. Rice addressed was sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, which has held a series of panels over the past few days.

Ms. Rice hailed the leadership of Mr. Sharon as she recalled Mr. Rabin, but she cautioned that Israel must not take actions that "prejudge a final settlement" with the Palestinians - code words for not expanding settlements or extending its security barrier into Palestinian areas.

But the focus of her speech was to cite examples of what she said was spreading democracy in the region, not only elections under American occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon and, to a lesser degree, in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Israelis are among the largest skeptics about the Bush administration's efforts to promote democracy, some administration officials acknowledge. Israelis fear that more democracy in Jordan and Egypt could breed more hostility, typified by the recently elected Iranian president's call for Israel's eradication.

Ms. Rice seemed to address such concerns, saying: "Of course, many skeptics still question whether freedom will truly lead to more peace in this region. I believe it will." She said the region must eradicate a sense of helplessness in which young people blame their problems "on modernity or on America or on the Jews."

Earlier Sunday, before her plane left Saudi Arabia, Ms. Rice and Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal sought to repair relations with pledges of more cooperation by setting up six working groups to improve efforts on such matters as combating terrorism, ensuring steady Saudi oil production and, a major demand of Saudis since Sept. 11, 2001, granting more visas to Saudis to visit and study in the United States.

The convivial atmosphere was underscored at lunch when the Saudis wheeled in a chocolate birthday cake for Ms. Rice, a day early, and sang "Happy Birthday." It was a gesture more appreciated than the one in her last visit, when the foreign minister airily declared that he had not read her speech on democracy the day before, "to my eternal shame."

In another unusual gesture of reconciliation, Prince Saud effectively retracted a criticism he made while in Washington in September that American policies in Iraq were causing the country to disintegrate and become dominated by Iran. Since then, he said, Saudi Arabia and other countries had signed up for an Arab League-sponsored conference on Nov. 19 in Cairo to bring reconciliation in Iraq. "Now that that step has been taken, my fears, which I had expressed earlier, are much more eased today than they were at the time that I expressed them," he said.

Greg Myre contributed reporting for this article.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:16 AM

    Online Chat
    SPONSORED LISTINGS 100% Free - Chat Online Chat online - 100% free special limited time offer at singlesnet.
    Find out how to buy and sell anything, like things related to instant road repair on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like instant road repair!