Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Israel yesterday, saying it
would be up to Israel to decide when Israeli-Palestinian violence has
eased enough to go ahead with a US plan to resume peacemaking.
Powell flew in from
Egypt for talks yesterday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Since a US-brokered
truce took effect June 13, the overall level of violence has dropped
significantly. However, signs of a US-Israeli rift emerged Tuesday
when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met President George W. Bush.
Sharon told Bush that he demanded 10 days of total calm with the
Palestinians before moving ahead with US plans to push forward peace
efforts. Bush sounded more flexible, insisting that the “cycle of
violence must be broken” and saying there was some progress in
reducing clashes between the parties.
Sharon was also
frustrated over Bush’s refusal to pay $800 million to cover the cost
of Israel’s pullout from Lebanon as promised by then President
Clinton. Israeli officials said in private that Powell’s current
visit to the Middle East was arranged under Saudi and Egyptian
yesterday, Powell told a news conference after meeting Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak: “We’ve had some quiet over the last
several days. Nobody is claiming that the level of violence is down
where anybody could say it was either realistic or zero...But at the
end of the day it is Mr. Sharon who will make that judgment.”
“Mr. Sharon has
been quite clear. He is seeking absolute quiet and by that he means
absolute quiet. President Bush was speaking yesterday of a realistic
level of violence, something that makes it clear to all sides that
there has been a change, that the cycle of violence has been
broken,” he said.
“But the real key
to this is that at the end of the day it is the parties that will have
to decide whether there is an adequate level of violence, an adequate
level of quiet in order to move forward,” Powell added.