Israel's Sharon Solicits U.S. Nod for Ignoring Authority of Arafat; Will Condemn 'Axis of Evil'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 7, 2002 | Go to article overview

Israel's Sharon Solicits U.S. Nod for Ignoring Authority of Arafat; Will Condemn 'Axis of Evil'


Byline: Ben Barber, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon makes his fourth visit to the Bush White House today to seek backing for his policy of isolating Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Sharon will also endorse President Bush's description of three countries as an "axis of evil." One of the three, Iran, will be able to produce a nuclear bomb "in two to five years," the Israeli defense minister said yesterday.

In a sign of mounting concern in the U.S. administration about the Middle East, CIA Director George J. Tenet said yesterday he will go next week to Israel, where a cease-fire plan he authored is gathering dust.

Mr. Sharon has refused to deal with Mr. Arafat, who has been boxed in by tanks at his office in Ramallah since early December.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer insisted that Mr. Arafat can control the violence and that he knew about a shipload of arms that was intercepted last month en route from Iran to the Palestinian territories.

"We know Arafat knew about the Karine A," Mr. Ben-Eliezer said of the vessel, which was seized in the Red Sea on Jan. 3.

The Bush administration, although generally supportive of Mr. Sharon, remains unconvinced that Mr. Arafat knew of the shipment of plastic explosives, rockets and assault rifles, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the House International Relations Committee yesterday.

But "he should have known and very well might have known," Mr. Powell added.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer, an Iraqi-born Israeli who now leads the Labor Party and could run against Mr. Sharon in the next election, was the first senior Israeli official to meet Mr. Arafat - in Tunis, Tunisia, in 1994 - to prepare for the peace process.

But he now holds the Palestinian Authority leader directly responsible for the violence since the September 2000 uprising that has left about 250 Israelis and more than 800 Palestinians dead.

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