Accessibility links

How Do Analysts View Powell's Middle East Trip? - 2002-04-18

President Bush said Secretary of State Colin Powell made some progress on his trip to the Middle East, but he is not getting much agreement. Israeli troops continue to invade and occupy the West Bank despite the President's telling them to withdraw. Arab leaders have said the Powell trip illustrates the one-sided U.S. support of Israel.

No breakthrough, but no breakdown, either. That is Barry Jacobs' opinion of the Powell trip. It is slow moving diplomacy, he said, but still moving.

Director of strategic studies at the American Jewish Committee, Mr. Jacobs said Secretary Powell at least talked at length with both sides, though he failed to prod Yasser Arafat into calling a halt to terrorism.

"But at the same time one can only say that he recognized the realities of what he was dealing with, which is no different from what every other American administration has realized over the preceding years - that you need two partners to make peace," Mr. Jacobs said.

Mr. Jacobs said Secretary Powell issued a stern warning to Hezbollah and its backer Syria, to stop shelling Israel. If this continues, adds Mr. Jacobs, it could lead to a regional war.

He does not think the Powell trip represented a setback for Israel. "One of the things that I think emerges from this trip is a pretty clear signal that although the United States would like to see a peace process begin and the peace process must include both Israel and the Palestinians, it has a full understanding and sympathy for what Israel must do to defend its own citizens," Mr. Jacobs said.

The trip disappointed Palestinians and Arabs in general, said George Hishmeh, columnist for various English language Arab newspapers. They expected the U.S. President to live up to his words and tell Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw his troops from the West Bank. They are still there, he said, with only a vague timetable for departing.

But Mr. Powell defied Prime Minister Sharon in one particular. "The best thing he has done is that he has seen Arafat. There is no question about it, and that has added to the growing stature of the Palestinian leader among his people and the Arab world," Mr. Powell said.

"But Mr. Arafat remains a virtual prisoner," said Mr. Hishmeh. "The secretary did nothing to secure his release."

Mr. Powell's trip was also sharply limited, said Mr. Hishmeh. "Powell accepts an invitation from the Israeli generals to go up and see the Lebanese-Israeli border and does not go across the street and see what is happening in the Palestinian communities. He did not even bother to go to see some of the devastated areas, like Bethlehem, like Jenin," he said.

In pursuit of terrorists, Israeli forces entered the crowded Jenin refugee camp. It was a massacre of innocents, say residents. Israelis respond they killed largely militants.

Mr. Powell cannot do it alone, said George Hishmeh. He needs the active participation of the international community if peace is to come to the Holy Land.