JERUSALEM (Sep. 10)
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made clear this week that it would take more than one visit by her to the region to restore the Israeli-Palestinian partnership.
In her first visit to the Middle East since taking office in January, Albright pressed both sides to make concessions in order to save the faltering peace process.
While explaining that there is “no moral equivalence between killing people and building houses,” Albright added that “Israelis and Palestinians need to restore the partnership and the reciprocity that produced” their historic agreements.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Albright said achieving peace and security depended on a clear Palestinian commitment to crack down on terror.
“The enemies of peace are purposefully and relentlessly attacking Israelis. So the war against terror being waged by those who support the path of peace must also be purposeful and relentless,” said Albright, adding that the Palestinian Authority must take “unilateral actions to root out the terrorist infrastructure.”
But Albright explained during her visit that both sides had to fulfill their obligations to restore the reciprocity needed to move the peace process forward.
“Israel should be taking steps that build confidence,” she said, referring to an American proposal that Israel temporarily freeze its construction projects on disputed land.
Netanyahu told reporters that Israel would be willing to consider easing the closure it imposed on the territories after the Sept. 4 triple suicide bombing in Jerusalem, but only if the self-rule authority lived up to its commitment to fight terrorism.
Netanyahu also downplayed the Palestinian Authority’s arrests this week of scores of suspected Islamic activists, saying that they should be going after the “sharks,” not the “sardines.”
Palestinian officials were critical of Albright’s tough approach toward them.
The Palestinian minister of higher education, Hanan Ashrawi, said Albright began her trip by displaying a “wholeheartedly one-sided approach.”
In Nablus, several dozen Hamas activists demonstrated against Albright’s visit, burning an American flag.
Albright was due to meet Thursday with Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah, and then to hold a second round of talks with Netanyahu.
Another meeting with the Palestinian leader was scheduled for Friday.
On Friday afternoon, Albright is scheduled to depart for the rest of her regional tour, which will include stops in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Earlier Wednesday, Albright visited Hadassah Hospital’s Mt. Scopus center, where some of the victims wounded in last week’s triple suicide bombing were recovering.
One of the injured who met Albright was 19-year-old Daniel Miller of Florida, who had arrived in Israel a day before the bombing to study at a yeshiva.
He gave Albright a letter urging her to insist that Arafat crack down on Hamas militants.
Holding hands with the Israeli and American victims, Albright said she hoped her efforts could help achieve a safer environment.
Albright also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, where she laid a wreath on behalf of the U.S. government for the millions who perished in the Holocaust.
Albright, who said earlier this year that she first learned she had Jewish ancestors when it was reported February in The Washington Post, lost more than a dozen of her relatives in the camps.
At least two of her relatives and a Czech-born friend of her father’s, Avigdor Dagan, a retired Israeli ambassador, live in Israel.
Officials at Yad Vashem planned to give Albright a list of Czech Jews deported to Nazi death camps, including some of her relatives.
At the end of her visit to Yad Vashem, Albright wrote in the guest book that it was an experience “I will never forget.”
“In this museum, in every face, in every picture, there is a warning. May God grant us the wisdom and the will to recognize evil wherever we see it,” she wrote.