Israeli Official: Powell Should Expect Inaction if Palestinian Violence Continues

US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Israel on Saturday for a two day visit, which will kick off an intensive period of diplomatic activity, THE JERUSALEM POST, reported. However, according to a senior diplomatic official speaking prior to Powell’s visit, Powell will be disappointed if he expects Israeli to make concessions on security measures towards the Palestinian Authority at this point, since Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’s (Abu Mazen) new government has not yet begun fighting terror.

A week after Powell’s visit, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to travel to Washington for a May 20 meeting with US President George W. Bush. According to the official, if the Powell visit focuses on how to implement the "road map," Sharon’s meeting with Bush will probably concentrate on the changing strategic situation in the region as a result of the war in Iraq. The official also said that while Israel might be willing to take some steps to relieve the humanitarian situation facing the Palestinians during Powell’s visit, measures such as lifting roadblocks or pulling back troops would have to wait until the PA had a credible security force in place that were both willing and able to fill the vacuum.

Referring to Thursday’s preemptive operation against Hamas fugitive Iyad al-Bek in the Gaza Strip, the official said these types of actions remained necessary owing to the high number of warnings of terror attacks. Moreover, he said, over the last 30 months, terror attacks have increased when Powell or other special US envoys, such as Anthony Zinni, have come to try to mediate the conflict. He said preemptive actions would continue until the PA takes the steps that will render them unnecessary. In response to recent reports that the Prime Minister is purposefully stalling the peace process, the official said, "It is nonsense to say we are stalling. What should we do, pull out troops and wait for another suicide bombing? And then what? We are ready to deal with the Palestinians. A meeting with Abu Mazen [Abbas] is in the works, but it is not taking place because of Palestinian domestic considerations." Sharon is also expected to tell Powell that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s shadow is still covering Abbas, and that Arafat still retains much control over PA finances and security forces.