Photo: AFP
American pressure - Rice
Photo: AFP

Rice turns heat on Israel

According to New York Times report, U.S. Secretary of State adopted ‘forceful’ stand in recent dealings with Israeli officials, rejected requests for aid

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been boosting American pressure on Israel ahead of the disengagement plan, the New York Times reported Sunday.


According to the report, “Rice has been forceful and even abrupt in her dealings with senior Israeli officials, including the Foreign and Defense Ministers, Silvan Shalom and Shaul Mofaz.”


During recent meetings, Rice was said to show impatience in the face of repeated Israeli requests for millions of dollars in aid earmarked for the construction of modern terminals on the Gaza-Israel border.


Rice reportedly also rejected an Israeli request for American funding for the razing of settlers’ homes.


'Rice ran the meetings'


According to Israeli officials, on her recent trip to Israel the Secretary of State "ran the meetings with them in their offices, taking control of the agenda and even announcing when they would end,” the New York Times reported


The newspaper says the Bush administration has “increased pressure on the Israeli government in recent days to do more to make a Palestinian Gaza "successful” following the upcoming evacuation.


Ms. Rice was initially considering a return trip to Israel next week to monitor the Gaza pullout, but has since decided against it.


"She'll get credit if it works, and she doesn't want to be here if it doesn't," one American official in the region said.


Ms. Rice is also trying to bolster Mahmoud Abbas, the president, the New York Times says.


No pullout under fire


According to Palestinian officials, she sent a senior adviser, James Wilkinson, on a quiet visit last week to Ramallah.He and a small team worked with Mr. Abbas to reorganize his office to improve efficiency and accountability, so orders will be followed.


Mr. Wilkinson also urged Mr. Abbas to set up a press office and a protocol office, to try to improve his image and authority, the newspaper says.


In interviews, both Mr. Wolfensohn and General Ward praised the support they were getting from President Bush and Ms. Rice, who have emphasized that a successful transition in Gaza is vital to progress toward a viable, democratic, independent Palestinian state.


"The big thing is their personal commitment, especially from the president and Secretary Rice, to an orderly and peaceful withdrawal, and then to work toward a permanent peace based on a two-state solution," Mr. Wolfensohn said.


Both men stress the importance of economic development and freedom of movement to give Palestinians the sense of a better future - one Mr. Abbas can hope to take credit for, in his political struggle with the militant Islamic movement Hamas.


General Ward said that Israeli and Palestinian military officials, down to the field level, were meeting to coordinate the pullout, to try to ensure that the Israelis will not come under fire. If there are mortar or rocket attacks, the Israelis say they will stop the pullout long enough to ensure that the firing stops.


The New York Times report was based on information received from American, Israeli and international officials.


פרסום ראשון: 08.07.05, 08:55
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