US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke for 40 minutes at
the University of Louisville on Monday night and slightly
more than half of his remarks were devoted to the Middle
East, laying out the major lines of US policy in the period
ahead. In a change from the US administration's early
reluctance to get involved, Powell acknowledged there can be
no progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track without US help.
Powell said the US "will do all it can to help the process
along. We will push. We will prod."
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon said that he welcomes the
speech and the understanding approach presented therein,
praising US President George Bush and Secretary of State
Powell for their uncompromising war on global terrorism for
the sake of freedom, liberty and democracy.
The US Secretary of State repeated the US call for a
Palestinian state. The first time that a US official spoke
explicitly of a Palestinian state was in President Bush's
address at the United Nations a few weeks ago. Powell also
referred to the Israeli "occupation," which close observers
said was a first for US diplomacy.
Despite these elements, the speech was notable for not
proposing an overall plan of any sort for a settlement, as
many had speculated it would.
Powell said the Palestinians would never achieve their
national aspirations through violence. "Palestinians need to
understand that however legitimate their claims, they cannot
be heard, let alone be addressed, through violence . . .
Terror and violence must stop, and stop now."
He also said Palestinians must eliminate any doubt once and
for all that they accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish
state. "They must make clear that their objective is a
Palestinian state alongside Israel, not in place of
Secretary Powell said the Arab world must make "unmistakably
clear" its acceptance of Israel and its commitment to a
He said the US "could not hope to turn the situation around
by acting alone" and called on Egypt, Jordan, the EU, UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russia, and others to be
partners in the effort.
Powell will dispatch Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern Affairs William Burns to Israel at the end of the
week. He will be accompanied by Powell's special adviser,
retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, whose first mission
will be to help the sides achieve a durable cease-fire along
the lines of the Tenet plan. Zinni will coordinate with new,
senior-level committees appointed by Israel and the PA to
deal with cease-fire arrangements and security
Asked by reporters on the flight back to Washington what he
meant in his speech, Powell chuckled and replied: "You'll see
what pushing and prodding is when Tony Zinni gets out
Of Israel, Powell said that it must halt settlement activity
because it cripples chances for real peace and security. "For
the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike, the occupation
must end, and it can end only through negotiations," he said.
"Israel must be willing to end its occupation, consistent
with the principles embodied in Security Council resolutions
242 and 338, and accept a viable Palestinian state."
In a statement in response to the speech, Israeli prime
minister Sharon said that the cessation of all terrorism,
violence and incitement is a prior condition for any
diplomatic progress. He added, "In order for us to find the
chance to reach the cease-fire that we all hope for, I have
established a negotiating team -- in conjunction with Foreign
Minister Shimon Peres -- to conduct negotiations toward
achieving a cease-fire with the Secretary of State's special
representatives, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns
and [retired US Marine Corps] Gen. Anthony Zinni."
Senior Palestinian Authority officials stressed the speech
called for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
and clearly stated US support for a viable Palestinian state
on land occupied during the 1967 war in return for security
Palestinian officials took heart from these comments, and
official Palestinian media played them up, omitting virtually
any reference to Powell's demands on the Palestinian
Authority. "On a broad vision, the statement was good,"
Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath said.
Nonetheless the first move must be Arafat's -- to stop the
violence and incitement.
A senior US official said that messages the US has been
receiving of late indicating that "Arafat's lieutenants" want
to put an end to the violence is the primary reason why the
US feels that this newest initiative will have more success
in bringing about a cease-fire.
According to JTA analyst D. Landau, Israeli government
sources said that Powell's demands of the Palestinians were
concrete and immediate, whereas the concessions he demanded
of Israel were more vague.
Yet Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Sharon, said Powell
understands Israel's position that the week of quiet is an
important test of Arafat's commitment to peace. "I think the
Americans know that if Arafat can't bring about a week of
quiet, he can't be depended on to bring a lifetime of peace,"
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said that the
level of Palestinian violence had dropped markedly over the
past two weeks. He attributed much of this to operations by
the Israel Defense Force, the Shin Bet security service and
police rather than to Palestinian Authority efforts, which
Israel continues to regard as inadequate and ineffective.
Other senior security officials that Israel had foiled close
to 20 terrorist attacks in the past month, some of them
planned as mass murders. They said that paradoxically the
resulting relative quite is being interpreted as evidence of
Palestinian intentions, when it really represents Israeli
success in combating violence that would continue unabated if