July 6, 2001
by Herb Keinon, Janine Zacharia, and Lamia Lahoud
JERUSALEM (July 6) – UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday urged Israel
to end what he said is a policy of “targeted assassinations” of Palestinian
terrorists, saying it violates international law and threatens Middle East
Annan “is deeply disturbed by the reported decision of the government of
Israel to continue the practice of what have become known as targeted
assassinations,” his spokesman said.
“The secretary-general appeals to the government of Israel to stop this
practice forthwith. There is no alternative to a political settlement of the
conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” the spokesman said in a written
In Washington, US Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday underlined US
opposition to the targeted hits, a day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s
security cabinet endorsed the continuation of the policy.
“We continue to express our distress and opposition to these kinds of
targeted killings and we will continue to do so,” Powell told Reuters.
While Sharon went to Europe yesterday hoping to get the Europeans to exert
greater pressure on Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to end the
violence, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder urged Israel to show “more
flexibility” on the settlements and begin implementing the Mitchell plan for
resuming peace talks with the Palestinians.
Schroeder made the remark at a news conference with Sharon in Berlin before
Sharon flew to Paris, where he held talks with President Jacques Chirac.
Sharon characterized his meeting with Chirac as “very good,” and said they
discussed strategic issues. Sharon said that France has a great interest in
the region and can “contribute much to stability in the Middle East and
efforts to reach a diplomatic arrangement.” He was to meet later in the
evening with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Chirac’s political rival and
challenger in next year’s presidential elections.
In Germany, Schroeder softened his comments about the settlements and
implementing the Mitchell plan by saying he was only proffering friendly
advice, not making requests or issuing demands. Germany, along with Britain –
which Sharon visited last week on his way to the US – are considered Israel’s
strongest supporters in the EU.
Israel has said it will not begin implementing the Mitchell Plan – which
calls for a cease-fire, followed by a cooling-off period, confidence-building
measures, and a return to negotiations – until after a seven-day period of
quiet. Although the Palestinians claim this period ended yesterday, Sharon
told reporters on the way to Berlin that there “has not been a day of calm.
There has not been a day of cease-fire.”
Schroeder pledged German support for Israel and said his country is ready to
take on “any responsibility that would help” the peace process, while
stressing that Germany would continue to consult closely with EU allies and
the United States.
Sharon said at his press conference with Schroeder that, “We are prepared for
painful compromises for real peace, peace for generations.” At the same time,
he added, “There is no compromise on terror. It is one of the biggest threats
to the world and the free world must fight it.”
He told Schroeder that Arafat is not doing anything to prevent terrorism. A
senior Israeli official said in Berlin that Mossad head Ephraim Halevy had
recently shown European leaders classified intelligence reports which prove
Arafat is personally responsible for the violence.
Sharon also met in Berlin with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who happened
to be in Tel Aviv at the time of the Dolphinarium bombing last month and was
instrumental in getting Arafat to issue orders for a cease-fire. Fischer said
that the rebuilding of trust requires “security for Israel and an absolute
end to the violence,” but also a pledge that there would be no expansion of
Israeli settlements in the territories.
In Washington yesterday, the State Department said it would not officially be
counting seven days of calm as a prelude to moving to the cooling-off period
of the Mitchell plan.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US would not announce
“day one, day two” or “have a little countdown clock or thermometer on the
wall. We’re looking for a period of calm.”
After Powell’s return to the US, officials expressed disappointment over the
results of the trip. As a result, the US appears to be scaling back its
involvement in mediation, relying primarily on diplomats in the region for
contacts with the parties. Boucher’s comments, which suggested that Powell
would not be dictating the terms of the cease-fire or acting as referee,
reinforced that impression.
Boucher also said the US is focused foremost on security cooperation now – a
much narrower goal than trying to secure a concrete path back to
negotiations, as Powell had originally hoped to achieve.
Arafat pledged his commitment to a full cease-fire in an interview published
yesterday, saying the PA has arrested several violators. Arafat told the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he condemns all forms of violence and
terrorism, “whoever is responsible.” “We must give radical and violent groups
on both sides no chance,” he was quoted as saying.
But he put most of the blame on Israel’s behavior in the territories, saying:
“Above all, I reject violence against my own people. Occupation is violence.
Illegal settlements are violence. Blockades are violence.
He said violence should not be rewarded, but added: “Sharon is allowed both –
violence and occupation.” While he condemned incitement, Arafat noted that
the prime minister has branded him a “pathological liar” and a “Palestinian
Osama bin Laden” in recent days. “Isn’t that incitement?” Arafat asked.
The Palestinian leader rejected what he called the myth that the Palestinians
are incapable of signing a peace treaty and accepting the “end of conflict.”
“Of course I would do that,” he said.
Palestinian officials called yesterday upon the US and Europe to intervene to
save the fragile cease-fire, blaming Israel of violating it by assassinating
Palestinian “militants.” The Palestinian cabinet met last night in Ramallah
to discuss Israel’s decision to target terrorists, the timeline for the
cease-fire, and the Mitchell report.
Fatah leaders vowed that the cease-fire was over because of Israel’s policy
of assassinations, vowing revenge for the targeted killings. PA Information
Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo blamed Sharon for opening a “hornet’s nest” by
ordering the killing of three Islamic militants in Jenin on Sunday, which he
said had foiled efforts by the Palestinian Authority to implement the
However, a PA source said that both sides were violating the cease-fire. He
said nothing would come out of a security meeting planned for today, except
that each side will blame the other for the continuing violence.
PA officials said “these isolated incidents” were the outcome of Israel’s
siege on the Palestinian areas, which is suffocating the Palestinians
economically, and provocation by Israeli settlers.
“Hungry people and frustrated people are angry and ready to commit violence,”
one PA source said.