WASHINGTON (Jan. 21)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will hear a stark U.S. assessment of his failures in the security arena when he meets with President Clinton and his top foreign policy advisers this week.
According to U.S. officials, Clinton plans to warn Arafat to end his threats that violence will return to the West Bank if the peace process stalls.
At the same time, the president, who will welcome Arafat to the Oval Office on Thursday, two days after he welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to press Arafat on the Palestinians’ failure to rein in Hamas militants and seize illegal weapons.
Clinton will also continue his effort to formulate a plan that will get Israel and the Palestinians back on the negotiating track.
The ideas being discussed include a phased further Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, contingent on specific palestinian actions on combating terrorism.
“We came up with an approach that we thought, in the ballpark, would satisfy both sides’ objectives,” Clinton said in a television news interview on Wednesday.
Clinton described his day with Netanyahu as “difficult,” but productive.
“The primary message” to Arafat is that he “needs to be realistic about what a further redeployment would look like, and he needs to understand the linkage between any movement forward by the Israelis and the question of security,” said James Rubin, State Department spokesman.
At the same time, Arafat, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday, is likely to hear sympathy for the political constraints he is under.
Clinton told Netanyahu that he does not expect Arafat to agree, as Israel has demanded, to extradite to Israel accused terrorists from Palestinian-controlled areas.
But the United States does believe that there is much more Arafat can do to sustain a constant war against terrorists.
U.S. officials said Clinton also told Netanyahu that Arafat should complete the revisions to the Palestinian Covenant that calls for Israel’s destruction.
But it is politically impossible for that to happen before more progress in the peace process, Clinton said, according to the officials.
Arafat’s first order of business was to meet with State Department officials. He was slated to have dinner Wednesday night with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Albright was then slated to meet one last time with Netanyahu before his scheduled Wednesday night return to Israel.
His return to Israel was being anxiously awaited by some angry members of Knesset who have threatened to topple his government if Israel withdraws from a significant portion of the West Bank.
Gesher member of Knesset Michael Kleiner, who heads Greater Israel, a Knesset coalition opposed to any West Bank pullout, reiterated his threat to support a no-confidence vote if Netanyahu tries to implement a troop redeployment.
But in the United States, Netanyahu wrapped up his three-day visit to Washington with continued voices of support from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
As Netanyahu called upon a series of legislators — including House and Senate leaders — Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) launched a barrage of criticism at the White House for its Israel policy.
Gingrich, who had met Netanyahu earlier in the week, accused clinton of operating “below the dignity of the United States of America” for not scheduling an official luncheon with Netanyahu only months after hosting a state dinner for the president of China.
After his White House meetings, Arafat has scheduled his only public event at a reception hosted by the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation.
Arafat is also scheduled to tour the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum before leaving Washington on Friday afternoon.