NEW YORK (AP) Now that the Bush administration has lined up with Arab and most European nations in calling for establishment of a Palestinian state, it soon will reveal what else it would like to see in a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
With uncommon swiftness, the administration shifted this past weekend from a relatively detached approach to peacemaking and an almost exclusive focus on trying to end the fighting to supporting a Palestinian state on land held by Israel and signaling Yasser Arafat that President Bush was ready to meet with him.
Bush”s declaration at the United Nations on Saturday that there ought to be a Palestinian state alongside Israel, splitting the small piece of land they both claim, was “a powerful signal,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
Such views have prompted wariness among Israelis, including Gilead Sher, who headed then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak”s office.
“Israel is a real friend, unconditionally,” to the United States, and “solidarity is our agenda,” Sher told a standing-room-only meeting of American Jewish groups at a Washington hotel yesterday.
“But what kind of solidarity do we get?” he asked. “Travel advisories” warning of potential dangers in Israel, which is coping with recession and a dying tourism industry. “Did the administration issue a travel advisory to New York after the horrors of Sept. 11?”
Aaron Miller, a veteran State Department mediator, rejected the “dangerous perception brewing that somehow the United States, in an effort to appease or satisfy the interests of its coalition partners, will somehow find a way to sacrifice Israel”s interests on the altar of coalition building.”
That idea circulated during the Gulf War, he told the meeting: “That perception was wrong then, and that perception is wrong now.”
Powell is to give a speech in a couple of weeks fleshing out the White House and State Department”s vision of Israel and the Palestinians” future.
The choice of the United Nations gave the declaration by Bush special resonance. It is the premier world body, and a place where most nations of the world but usually not the United States have lined up for decades to denounce Israel for one thing or another.
The timing coincides with efforts by Bush and Powell to persuade Arab and Muslim nations to support the U.S. war against Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist militia that has shielded Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan.