Albright faces difficult task in Mideast
In this report:
September 8, 1997
Web posted at: 10:40 p.m. EDT (0240 GMT)
JERICHO, West Bank (CNN) -- On the eve of U.S. Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright's trip to the Mideast, Palestinian
security forces on Monday arrested 35 Hamas and Islamic Jihad
"We have to take preventative measures that will prevent any
kind of terrorist attack or violence," said Brig. Jibril
Rajoub, the Palestinian security chief.
The arrests are the result of pressure from the Americans and
Israelis, who have let the Palestinians know publicly and
privately that ending Palestinian terrorism is imperative
before anything constructive can come of peace negotiations.
No one believes that the arrests will be enough to stop
terrorism. In fact, in a leaflet Monday, Hamas vowed that
suicide bombings against Israel would continue and appealed
to Albright not to put pressure on the Arab side.
Albright on Tuesday begins her first trip to the Mideast as
secretary of state. She is expected to visit Israel, the West
Bank, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and possibly
Her intention is to ease the "crisis of confidence" that has
existed between the Israelis and Palestinians since the
bombing of a Tel Aviv cafe in March that derailed peace
Two more multi-suicide bombings in Jerusalem since then have
kept anxiety high, and resulted in arrests and strict curbs
imposed by the Israelis on Palestinian mobility even within
their own territories.
Netanyahu's mantra: Stop the terrorism
Following last week's bombing in Jerusalem, Israeli media
reports say the explosives used in both Jerusalem attacks
were prepared in a Hamas bomb factory uncovered by
Palestinian police two months ago.
But Rajoub says there is still no proof to link the bombers
directly to areas under Palestinian control.
"This is nonsense," he said. "Israel told us immediately
after they examined the explosives there is no connection."
The daily mantra from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu is a demand that the Palestinian Authority carry
out mass arrests and crush extremist Islamic groups.
"Yasser Arafat must be made to live up to his promise to
fight the terrorists -- to stop coddling them," Netanyahu
said Monday. "If he does, it would be a major move forward
and we could move toward achieving a final settlement."
Israel has frozen the scheduled return of West Bank land to
the Palestinians until it is satisfied that Arafat is taking
steps to stop the bombings.
Albright to talk tough to both sides
Stalling on the handover is effectively a violation of the
Oslo peace accords, and it has drawn an angry response from
Israeli Foreign Minister David Levi. Levi called it a
dangerous tactic, and drew immediate applause from
Meanwhile, Israel continues its pressure on the Palestinians,
sealing off West Bank towns from each other, and closing
Israel to those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
According to a senior U.S. State Department official,
Albright is expected to take a hard line with Arafat and
She is expected to encourage Arafat to do everything he can
to halt terrorism and give Israel reason to believe it has
nothing to fear from the Palestinians. She is expected to
remind Netanyahu that Israel's part of the bargain is to
withdraw from the West Bank, and she will urge him to stick
Her most difficult task, however, will be convincing Arafat
and Netanyahu after all that has happened in the past six
months that they can, indeed, trust each other.
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.
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