U.S. to Arafat: Stop the cycle of violence

Published October 9, 2000 2:21PM (EDT)

The Clinton administration says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat holds the key to stopping "the cycle of violence" between his people and the Israelis.

At the same time, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says Israel also must do what it can to not make the dangerous situation worse.

"Mr. Arafat has made some very hard decisions in the past, and he has been able to control things," Albright told reporters Sunday.

"We expect him to be able to control it; we want him to be able to control it. He has to do everything he can to get this rock-throwing and violence under control."

Above all, she said, the United States wants disengagement between the two sides.

Ten days of chaos that originated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have left more than 80 people dead, mostly Palestinians, and left the U.S.-sponsored peace process in shambles.

The White House, meanwhile, was working to arrange a meeting soon between Clinton and the region's leaders, possibly in Egypt, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Sunday, President Clinton telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syria's new president, Bashar Assad.

P.J. Crowley, White House national security spokesman, said the discussion with Assad, whose country has thousands of troops in Lebanon, was to request help restraining the Hezbollah and interceding in behalf of the captured Israelis.

"The president remains focused on the situation within the region, first and foremost breaking the cycle of violence we've seen in the last 10 days," Crowley said. "Once the parties stop the violence, we'll evaluate how to shift the focus to get back to the peace process to lessen the underlying tension that fuels this violence."

He added, "We've made no decision on how to get negotiations back on track, but ... that is something we want to do as quickly as possible."

Barak said Saturday that he wants Arafat to stop the uprising within 48 hours, but he denied Sunday that the comment amounted to an ultimatum.

"I said the obvious, most self-evident consequence," Barak said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Arafat "can easily order an end to the whole violence that we are facing," and must do it "within a reasonable time frame -- let's say, two days."

Otherwise, he said, Israel will have to "conclude that he deliberately has decided to abandon the negotiation process and is preferring confrontation."

Barak gave no apologies for his tough talk in several TV appearances. On NBC's "Meet the Press," he insisted Arafat "initiated this whole series of events, ... (and) we know he can stop it" within 12 hours.

"We are living in a place where there is no mercy for the weak and no second opportunity for those who do not defend themselves," he said on CBS.

Israel already has used armor, helicopters and live ammunition in confrontations with Palestinians. Barak did not say what additional force he might use in any escalation to punish Arafat for failing to stop the rioting.

Albright urged Israeli restraint. "The Israelis have to do everything they can to be able to respond in a way that does not create more violence," she told reporters.

Although she also said Arafat could and should stop the violence, she refused to assign blame for the worst Palestinian-Israeli violence in four years.

"We need to look forward, we need to get them to step back from each other so there is no cycle of violence," she said.

Albright and Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, stressed that the fighting has reached dangerous proportions.

"I do not believe that either party here, either the Israelis or Palestinians, wants to see this escalate further beyond control," Berger said on ABC's "This Week," "but it is difficult to break this cycle."

By William C. Mann

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