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Israelis, Palestinians Have Mixed Reactions to Powell's Speech


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has outlined the Bush Administration's vision for peace in the Middle East where he says two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders. Mr. Powell's speech was watched closely by Israelis and Palestinians.

A political advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Zalman Shoval, called Secretary Powell's speech important, saying it showed the continuing commitment of the United States to promote peace and stability in the Middle East.

Mr. Shoval, a two-time Israeli ambassador to the United States, pointed to Mr. Powell's call to the Palestinians to end more than 13 months of violence and arrest militants responsible for terrorist acts. "The violence has to stop," he said. "There has to be a cease-fire. The Palestinians will have to live up to the commitments, which they made about that in the past."

In his speech, Secretary Powell said the current Palestinian uprising is "mired in the quicksand of self-defeating violence and terror against Israel."

Palestinian political analyst Ghassan Khatib says Mr. Powell's speech reflected the Israeli point of view on the current conflict. "Especially when he referred to the Palestinian struggle against the occupation as being terrorism and he was very harsh, unjustifiably harsh, against the Palestinians and their president concerning the current, ongoing confrontations," he said. "He failed to realize that much of the current violence is Israeli-initiated violence."

Secretary Powell said in his policy address that Israel must be willing to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories captured during the 1967 Middle East war.

He also said Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have undermined chances for peace, and that settlement activity must stop.

Mr. Powell said Israel must accept a viable Palestinian state where people can live with dignity and security.

Israeli government advisor Zalman Shoval says Israel supports a Palestinian state as long as it is created through negotiations. "The secretary successfully addressed the various concerns of the different parties, making it very clear that, though the United States supports, or has a vision of Palestinian statehood in the future, this can only come about as a result of negotiations with Israel," said Zalman Shoval. "Negotiations are really contingent, will only be the result of, an end to the current state of violence."

Palestinian political analyst Ghassan Khatib says Mr. Powell's speech reflects growing American interest in the Middle East and a deep understanding of the fundamental issues of the conflict. He expressed concern, however, that it did not offer a new plan to bring the parties together. "It failed in not providing the parties with any mechanism that will convince us that this plan or this vision has a chance of materializing," he said.

Secretary Powell says U.S. envoys will be sent to the region to help both sides implement the recommendations of an international commission that proposed a cease-fire, a cooling-off period and confidence-building measures leading to a resumption of peace talks.