Arafat Says Palestinians Will Not Be Defenceless
Yasser Arafat has made it clear – Palestinian people will not sit defenceless while an Israeli offensive continues against people in the West Bank and Gaza areas. He delivered his position to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell during a meeting held between the two early this morning New Zealand time.
Powell was driven to the besieged compound
in a motorcade of armoured-plated Vehicles, shielded by
sub-machine gun armed US security personnel.
The journey would have given the United States, at the most senior level, a personal account of the degree of fighting that had taken place in that part of Ramallah.
Arafat was reported as having “complained bitterly and extensively” to Powell about Israel's military thrust into Palestinian-held towns and villages, and especially its actions in Jenin and a refugee camp in the town.
Powell returned a "clear message" to Arafat in a 45-minute presentation. The substance of that message was direct "the bombings have to stop, that it was a major barrier" to progress toward a security agreement or on negotiations that should lead to establishment of a Palestinian state. Top US and Palestinian aids will discuss details of the meeting further today.
Further meetings will be held between Powell and the Israeli leader Ariel Sharon who remains defiant in the face of US and international condemnation of the severity and atrocity of the Israeli offensive.
Sharon’s stance has exposed weakness within the Bush administration’s handling of this affair. Presidential responses have been criticised for being issued too late, once issued have been authoritarian as opposed to diplomatic, and ill-considered as to what happens if the Israeli’s refused to heed US demands. When questioned a week ago on what plans he had in place should Israel refuse to withdraw, Bush said simply that that wont be a concern as Israel will meet his demands. The past too weeks have exposed the US President as being ineffective and without meaningful contingency plans.
This morning Washington further tempered its position: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage stated: “the administration wants more withdrawals [by Israel], but is not setting a deadline.”
That is certainly a bruised back-down, a retreat on demands of "an immediate withdrawal" as insisted by US President George W Bush over one week ago, and perhaps a US realisation that its relationship with Israel carries no weight in harnessing a storming Israeli offensive against its age-old-foe.
Meanwhile World Vision aid workers in the Middle East believe a United Nations backed international peacemaking force is required to force a ceasefire in the region. That goal is now unachievable considering the carnage both Israelis and Palestinians have endured.