WASHINGTON (AP) Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expected a boost yesterday from President Bush in his struggle with terror attacks, but he also was due for a polite letdown on trying to isolate Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from the United States.
Sharon, who has imposed virtual house arrest on Arafat in the West Bank, wanted Bush to cut more than a decade of U.S. contact that followed the Palestinian leader”s public repudiation of terrorism.
But that is a door the Bush administration does not want to shut yet even as it applies heavy pressure on Arafat to curb Palestinian attacks on Israel, to make more arrests and to take responsibility for trying to smuggle in 50 tons of Iranian rockets, mortar and explosives.
Still, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said before yesterday evening”s meeting that “the president believes Chairman Arafat knows what he needs to do to crack down on the terrorist activities in the Middle East, and that the United States was looking to Chairman Arafat to do more to demonstrate his opposition to terrorism and the concrete steps he”ll take.”
Fleischer”s description of Bush”s take on Arafat is one the White House and State Department have advanced for months. But it has not stopped the bloodshed.
Bush also planned to tell Sharon that he had “deep concern about the plight of the Palestinian people, and he”ll discuss what steps might be taken to ease the situation for the people,” Fleischer said.