Impatient Bush tells Israel To Get
Out Of West Bank 'Now'

(AFP) - An impatient President George W. Bush told Israel to halt its incursions in Palestinian-ruled areas "now", after it ignored his previous appeals and launched another West Bank security sweep.
"(The) Israelis understand my position. I've been very clear and there has been some progress, but it's now time to quit it altogether; it's time to end this," Bush said, making his second such appeal in two days.
"We'll see what happens. I know they've heard us," Bush told reporters at his ranch, a day after discussing the Middle East crisis with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
Bush spoke amid signs of a rift within his foreign policy team, as several State Department officials admitted privately they were demoralized by administration infighting over the Middle East.
Pressure from the White House meanwhile, prompted Congress to delay legislation which branded Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a "terrorist" after Bush aides it could hamper their peace efforts.
Bush first called for an end to the incursions, which Sharon's government says are targeting suicide bombers, on April 4, but later said he was satisfied with Israel's limited withdrawal.
The operation has besieged Arafat in his Ramallah compound and trapped armed Palestinians in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.
The White House said Friday that Crown Prince Abdullah had presented Bush with an eight point list of Middle East peace objectives.
The plan, which appears to be largely an amalgam of existing US and Saudi proposals for ending the bloody Israel-Palestinian conflict, recommends :
- An Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian-ruled areas taken over in recent incursions;
- A lifting of the Israeli siege of Ramallah;
- The creation of a multinational peace force for the territories;
- The reconstruction of Palestinian infrastructure devastated by the fighting;
- Talks on US security plans, including the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell plan;
- The halting of Israeli settlement building;
- A renunciation of violence by both sides;
- A concerted US attempt to implement UN resolution 242 passed in 1967, which called for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands.
Earlier Friday, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone, his spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The conversation centered on Israel's reluctance to let a United Nations fact-finding team enter Jenin refugee camp where the Palestinians claim a massacre took place.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed to an Israeli request to delay the arrival of the mission until Sunday evening, a senior UN official said Friday.
Before Bush's appeal, Israeli troops pursued their nearly month-old West Bank offensive, launching a pre-dawn incursion into the city of Qalqilya, the army said.
A local leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was killed in the attack, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The Israeli army later pulled out of the city.
The US House of Representatives meanwhile postponed a vote on a resolution branding Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a terrorist, under pressure from the Bush administration which judged it could hamper its Middle East peace efforts.
The move was ordered by Majority whip Tom Delay on Friday after a call from the White House, his spokesman said.
The bill states support for Israel and castigates Arafat, accusing him of "ongoing support and coordination of terror, and doubts he is still a "partner for peace."
Whispers that the Bush administration is badly split on Middle East policy earlier burst into the open, as several State Department officials admitted to frustration
"There is a feeling that we are directionless, and that has created a lot of resentment and some anger," said one official, referring to a "generally gloomy mood" at the State Department as it battles the White House and Pentagon for control of Middle East policy.
The crisis will top the agenda at a meeting of the Middle East "quartet," which the State Department said Friday would meet in Washington on May 2.
The panel is made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

Email This Article


This Site Served by TheHostPros