Arabs Say Powell Failure
Heralds More Violence

By Caroline Drees

CAIRO (Reuters) - By failing to secure a truce or end Israel's West Bank incursion, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave Israel a green light to continue its offensive and paved the way for fresh violence, Arab dailies said on Thursday.
"The United States unleashes Sharon's hand to perpetrate a genocide against the Palestinian people," screamed a red, front-page headline in Morocco's al-Alam newspaper.
Jordan's ad-Dustour said the region "is facing a new wave of Israeli aggression backed this time, like in previous times, by an American green light...which means the Palestinian people can expect tough days ahead."
>From Morocco to the Gulf, media and ordinary Arabs said Powell's Middle East mission had also eroded what remained of U.S. credibility in the region by proving that Israel, not Washington, was calling the shots.
"Colin Powell arrived in our region as an American minister with the rank of general and left it as a footsoldier of the Israeli...General (Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon," Lebanon's daily as-Safir said in a blistering front-page editorial.
Damascus Radio, a Syrian government mouthpiece, took a similar line, saying Powell had watched Israel's military maneuvers "like a general inspecting his troops."
Powell's tour began amid high hopes after President Bush told Israel it had to retreat immediately from West Bank areas re-occupied during an offensive launched on March 29 to hunt down militants.
But from his frosty reception in Morocco on April 8 to his departure from Egypt on Wednesday without getting to see President Hosni Mubarak, Arabs say the tour was riddled with setbacks and snubs as the bloodshed continued and faith waned in Washington's ability to influence Israel.
Even Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, a key U.S. ally, said U.S. credibility was collapsing for failing to restrain Israel.
Just a few Arab voices praised Powell's trip, saying he had at least reinforced the legitimacy of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat by meeting him face-to-face and had won a pledge from Israel to end its incursion soon. Others said the world had to wait and see whether the trip will bear longer-term fruit.
"I think it's premature to say he (Powell) failed. He hasn't succeeded so far. We haven't seen the end of this," said Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan al-Muasher.
Israel said on Thursday troops would leave the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin and parts of Ramallah by Sunday but would stay at Arafat's compound and Bethlehem's Nativity Church until a standoff with militants was resolved.
Iraq's government newspaper al-Jumhouriya said Powell's mission had been deliberately designed to let Israel crush a 19-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation and "kill more Palestinian people."
At least 1,278 Palestinians and 452 Israelis have been killed since the uprising began after peace talks stalled.
Israel has said it has killed at least 200 Palestinians, mostly militants, during the West Bank offensive, but Palestinian officials have put the death toll at 500 or more.
Hassan Nafaa, head of Cairo University's political science department, said "most of the Arab intelligentsia now feel U.S. policy on the Middle East isn't made in Washington, but in Tel Aviv."
Maha, a Jordanian housewife, couldn't agree more.
"Powell? He's the foreign minister of Israel. What could anyone expect from the Americans? How can any Arab trust them with all their blind support of Israel? The Israelis are killing the Palestinians with American arms," she said.
Some Arabs say that by failing to stop the Israeli incursion or curb the violence, Powell undermined Washington's moderate Arab allies who are struggling to control public rage against Israel and to justify the need for diplomacy, not war.
"Although we are all aware of the United States' blatant bias toward Israel, some misguided people were hoping Washington would change its position ever so slightly, if only to save their Arab allies the embarrassment of having to face their angry people," Qatar's al-Raya newspaper said.
Many Arabs also feel abandoned and forgotten by Washington.
"It's like this joke I heard," said Nadya, a retired Cairo businesswoman. "Bush and Powell announce they'll solve the Middle East crisis by killing a million Arabs and one dentist. So someone asks: 'Why the dentist', and Bush tells Powell: 'See, I told you nobody would ask about the Arabs."'

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