Powell urges Israelis, Palestinians to move forward
U.S. secretary of state calls Hamas 'enemy of peace'
JERICHO, West Bank (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday called on Israel to transfer responsibility for Gaza's security to the Palestinian Authority and urged Palestinian officials to control radical Islamic groups such as Hamas.
Powell pushed for these steps as he met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho to bolster the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace.
Powell said talks leading to a transfer of security control in Gaza from Israel to the Palestinian Authority would be a "powerful and important first step" toward stemming the violence that killed dozens of people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza since the Aqaba summit two weeks ago in Jordan.
"In our conversation today, most of the time was spent not on esoteric subjects but practical aspects of security: how to arrange for the transfer of responsibility for Gaza, the details of the transfer, what are the outstanding issues that have to be dealt with before we can go forward with this transfer," Powell said.
He said Abbas' decision to engage in direct talks with Israel on security and other issues was encouraging.
If a security transfer can be brought about, "the people of Gaza can see life return to this strip and their own authority in charge," he said.
"I think it would give them confidence that organizations such as Hamas and other terrorist organizations perhaps do not have the right answer and that the right answer is the road map and moving forward toward peace," Powell added.
Hours earlier, after meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Powell described Hamas as "the enemy of peace."
The military wing of Hamas has claimed responsibility for attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets. The United States and Israel has declared the group a terrorist organization.
Despite "whatever charitable or other social good these organizations may perform, as long as they have ... a commitment to terror and violence and a desire to destroy the state of Israel, I think this is a problem we have to deal with in its entirety," Powell said.
Settler killed in car attack
But amid the talk of peace, Palestinian gunmen opened fire Friday on a car near the West Bank town of Ramallah, killing one man and wounding three people.
The driver was identified as Zvi Goldstein, 50, of Eli, a Jewish settlement; he has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, a settler said. His American parents were among the wounded.
Condemning the latest attack, Powell said, "All around us are extremists who want to block our path. ... Our condolences go out to the families of the victims. We must not allow terrorists to win."
On Thursday, a bomb carried by a Palestinian exploded in an Israeli grocery store, killing him and the store's 63-year-old owner, Israeli police and medical sources said.
The bombing happened in the northeastern farming community Sde Trumot, north of the so-called Green Line separating the West Bank and Israel.
Police said they suspect the bomber may have prematurely detonated his explosives. It was unclear whether he intended to kill himself or plant the explosives.
In a phone call to news agencies, Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, which happened hours before Abbas held talks with militant groups in Gaza.
The idea of giving the groups representation in the Palestinian Authority has been floated as an enticement to get the militants to agree to a cease-fire.
Questioned about such a proposal, Abbas and Powell said they would welcome any group that participates democratically and nonviolently in Palestinian life.
Sharon: Terror, political process 'cannot coincide'
Sharon said that Israel would not compromise on its security and that the Palestinian Authority must take strong steps to dismantle the militant groups.
"So long as there is terror, there will be no political process," Sharon said. "Political process cannot coincide with terror. That's why we expect the Palestinian Authority to wage true, genuine struggle against terrorism."
Powell said Israel's steps to release Palestinian prisoners and dismantle unauthorized outposts by Jewish settlers was encouraging, but he indicated Israel's policy of assassinations remains a sticking point.
"We know that there are occasions that arise when terrorists are coming in, and we know a bomb is heading in ... and we can understand the need to intercept such a terrorist," Powell said. "When one goes beyond that and expands those kinds of activities to individuals or to situations where it might not be a ticking bomb ... then the consequences of such actions ... must be taken into consideration."
Sharon characterized the past week as "birth pangs of a process."