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Change in US policy towards ME:Washington Post
by Saima Alvi
11 April 2002 11:49 UTC
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11 April 2002  Thursday  

Powell meets Arafat on Saturday: Change in policy 

WASHINGTON, April 10: This week's shift in the United States position on 
the Middle East brought about by the Israeli aggression in the West Bank 
was again underlined on Wednesday, in remarks by the White House. 

After days of arguing that Palestinian attacks had to end and a ceasefire 
arranged before political talks could proceed, the Bush administration has 
now recognized that the two cannot be separated. 

This is a victory for the Palestinian argument and a defeat for Israel, 
which was insisting on a prior ceasefire and an undertaking by Yasser 
Arafat to halt suicide bombings and other attacks. 

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said at his briefing on Wednesday 
that the two aspects, a ceasefire and the start of political talks, were 
intertwined and made common sense. 

It was also announced on Wednesday that Secretary of State Colin Powell 
would meet Mr Arafat on Saturday, in another modification of the earlier 
administration policy of disdaining high-level contacts with the 
Palestinian leader. In Madrid on Tuesday, Mr Powell said a truce pact would 
be 'instantly linked' to political discussions. 

The shifts in the US position have come about partly because of the 
impossibility of defending Israel's brutal tactics in its current military 
offensive against the Palestinians, and partly because of domestic and 
foreign pressure. Even Jewish groups like Tikkun have taken out 
advertisements distancing themselves from the more pro-Zionist bodies, and 
called for the creation of an international peace-keeping force under the 
United Nations and led by the US, and for the setting up of an 
international peace conference based on the Saudi proposals as enunciated 
by Crown Prince Abdullah. 

There have also been several public demonstrations in US cities against the 
Israeli aggression, with a large one reported from the University of 
California at Berkeley, which was at the centre of the anti-Vietnam 
agitation in the 60s. Arab activists have also organized rallies before the 
White House and the State Department in Washington. 

European countries have been particularly outspoken about Israeli actions 
and US backing for them. Germany was reported on Tuesday to have cut off 
military aid to Israel in what virtually amounts to imposing sanctions 
against Tel Aviv. 

The Bush administration also appears to have been shaken by the depth of 
the anti-Israel and anti-US demonstrations held in several Arab cities. 

The Washington Post said on Wednesday the shift in US attitudes in the 12 
days since Israel laid siege to the Palestinian towns reflected the 
ascendancy of Secretary Powell's views within President Bush's inner circle 
that the US had to become more involved in brokering the Israel-Palestine 
dispute, including working with the Palestinians, before any more damage 
was done to American standing in the Middle East

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