THE MIDDLE EAST: Diplomacy - Israel's Bloody Intransigence Silences Bush
Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent (London, England)
With his condemnation of terrorism and of Friday's Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem, Yasser Arafat yesterday opened a chink of possibility in the bloodiest and most ominous Middle Eastern showdown in two decades.
As Washington perused the statement to see whether it was sufficient to clear the way for a meeting between Colin Powell, the Secretary of State and the Palestinian leader today, a massive diplomatic effort continued to try and defuse the crisis.
It is placing in jeopardy Washington's campaign against global terrorism, straining to the limit US relations with moderate Arab states who face street demonstrations against Israel's savage military offensive into Palestinian cities on the West Bank.
The turmoil is spilling across Israel's northern border with Lebanon. It is disturbing international oil markets and fuelling outbursts of anti-Semitism in countries as far away as France.
Speaking to the Independent on Sunday, the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that General Powell's mission was "hanging by a thread" but that "there is a slim chance this weekend for the region to step back from catastrophe."
In a break with the anti-Palestinian language which prevails here, General Powell yesterday issued a statement demanding that Israeli forces in the West Bank "exercise the utmost restraint... and refrain from the excessive use of force." This will go a little way towards meeting Palestinian insistence that the Bush administration condemns Israeli military actions against Palestinian civilians. …