Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON After months of urging Israel to act with “restraint,” the Bush administration abandoned that word yesterday and endorsed Israel”s right to defend itself in any way it sees fit. “The president”s point of view is that Israel is a sovereign government,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “Israel has the right to defend herself.”

Fleischer and U.S. State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker insisted that despite the latest surge in violence, the administration had not abandoned hope for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But their comments marked a sharp change in direction from earlier U.S. focus on efforts to mediate a cease-fire that would be acceptable to both sides.

Middle East experts said the administration”s stance, unless it is modified soon, would damage Washington D.C.”s effort to keep Arab nations in its coalition against Osama bin Laden”s al Qaida terrorist network.

Asked if the administration was repeating its usual calls for Israeli restraint, Reeker refused to even acknowledge the word. “What we”re saying is, we understand Israel is responsible for their security, and that they need to take the decisions regarding self-defense.”

At the same time, Fleischer and Reeker, who read their answers from the same carefully prepared script, insisted that the administration had not given Sharon a “green light” to destroy Yasser Arafat”s Palestinian Authority.

But Sharon, who met with President Bush Sunday in Washington, D.C., left little doubt that he believes he obtained Washington”s support for an escalation of military action, not just against terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but also against key facilities of Arafat”s authority.

Bush administration officials insist that Arafat remains a potential partner for peace talks with Israel. But they made it clear they are fed up with his repeated failures to crack down on anti-Israel terrorism.

Reeker said said Arafat not only must arrest the perpetrators of the weekend terrorist attacks in the Israeli cities of Jerusalem and Haifa but completely destroy the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.