Arafat Denounces Israel at UN
By Melissa Radler and Janine Zacharia
November 12, 2001
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, in an address to the UN General Assembly yesterday, repeatedly laid the blame for the current violence squarely on Israel.
"Here I am, once again bringing you the pain of the Palestinian people and their just cause, which is still awaiting a just solution," he said.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, meanwhile, said he would capitalize on President George W. Bush's declaration of support for the creation of a Palestinian state and hinted new US moves are planned for the coming days.
One source in Washington, briefed by American officials, said an administration official could travel to the region soon to try again to secure a more enduring cease-fire.
The administration hopes Bush's public support for a Palestinian state will coax Arafat into taking stronger steps to fight terror and end incitement.
In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Powell said Bush's use of the word "Palestine" to describe a future Palestinian state was deliberate and the Palestinians and Saudis in particular should have taken notice.
"No Republican president has ever made a statement as forthcoming as that with respect to a future vision of the two states in that region," Powell said.
He presented the US vision for breaking the deadlock as beginning with getting the violence and incitement "down to zero," moving into the Mitchell plan with confidence-building measures, and then a return to negotiations.
"That is our vision. I think the president gave it a jump start yesterday in his speech. And I will be following up on that jump start. There are other things that are now happening in the region that I think we are going to see in the next day or so. And I believe I can build on those actions," he said.
Powell said he hoped to schedule a meeting with Arafat yesterday.
"We have met twice so far since I have become secretary of state, and I hope we can get our calendars to mesh this afternoon.
"I'm anxious to speak to him and to discuss the situation in the region and how we are planning to move forward," he said.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to visit Washington in the first week of December and meet with Bush.
The visit was postponed from last week due to security concerns.
Powell met with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for over an hour at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel yesterday. He is expected to deliver a speech declaring US principles on the Middle East within a week, Peres said after the meeting.
In addition, Peres said that the US is putting pressure on the Palestinians to live up to their commitments and that the administration understands that Israel is not at fault for the continuing violence.
"Now the emphasis is on asking the Palestinians to declare their positions, and now the international community is asking them to live up to their commitments," he said.
The European initiative that has been touted by the Palestinians recently doesn't appear to exist, said Peres. "I was in Europe this week and there was nothing solid," he said.
Arafat also voiced his support for the US-led war on terrorism, stating his people's "readiness to confront all forms of international terrorism, including state organized terror, in order to build a new world that will guarantee justice, peace, security, and freedom to all people."
Most of his speech, however, was devoted to explaining his views on the conflict with Israel, absolving the PA of complicity in the past year of violence, and citing UN resolutions as the basis for resolving the issues.
He also reiterated the accusation that Sharon sparked the violence with his visit last year to the Temple Mount and said Israel practices "state terror," including " the killing of women, children, and old people." Palestinian casualties, said Arafat, amount to 1,800 dead and 37,000 wounded, compared to 700 dead cited by the media.
He also accused Israel of "undermining our Christian and Muslim holy sites."
The PA has abided by all cease-fire agreements, said Arafat, including the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative and the Mitchell and Tenet reports. "We have also unilaterally declared an immediate, comprehensive cease-fire, and we have exerted maximum efforts to sustain it," he said.
He blamed the failure of peace negotiations on post-Rabin governments, which he said were not fully committed to peace.
"It is very evident that we are in need of more international efforts and international presence on the ground," he said.
Ambassador to the UN Yehuda Lancry expressed disappointment with Arafat's speech, saying it "contains all the usual elements from his past speeches with no new positive elements."
"Even more unfortunate is the fact that in his speech Chairman Arafat did not commit to root out the terrorists within the areas he himself controls, as expected of him by the agreements that he himself signed and the public and diplomatic statements that he himself made," he added.
Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said that Arafat accomplished nothing by standing before the UN and telling lie after lie.
"His lies and declarations will not end the violence, and they certainly will not give him a state," Gissin said. "Bush said that the time for declarations has ended and the time for action has begun. The only place Arafat ever accomplished anything was around the negotiating table. All he has to do is end violence, terror, and incitement and negotiations will begin."
Responding to Arafat's claim that he is enforcing a cease-fire, Gissin said that "the gap between his statements and the facts on the ground grows wider every day. I'm not sure that even he can believe his lies anymore."
(Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.)