J E R U S A L E M, Oct. 10 - Israel may have indefinitely extended its
ultimatum to the Palestinians to end nearly two weeks of violence, but so
far there have been few signs of hope coming from the Middle East.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told ABCNEWS his hope for peace "at
least for the near future, is fading away."
Speaking on Nightline, Barak berated Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
for not ordering Palestinians to retreat from the worst clashes seen in
the region in over four years, and said it signaled a deliberate decision
to abandon the peace process.
"By simple order to his people he can achieve it in 24 hours," the
Israeli leader said. "If he is unable to do it, then it means to us that
he has deliberately abandoned the peace process, which was so ripe at Camp
Camp David: Missed Opportunity?
Barak said he was willing to go further at Camp David than any previous
Israeli leader to achieve a historic peace agreement, but Arafat balked.
"We tried our best. We really left no stone unturned to try and find
a way," Barak told Nightline. "Unfortunately, we didn't find the partner
ripe at this time. The present [Palestinian] leadership seems to be unripe
So far, at least 89 people - mostly Palestinians - have been killed
in the violence, which flared up after Israeli right-wing politician Ariel
Sharon visited a Jerusalem holy site revered by Muslims as Al-Haram
al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
"If Arafat now does not seize the opportunity, then it means that he
somehow prefers a confrontation," Barak said, quoting former Israeli
Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who once said, "The Palestinians never miss an
opportunity to miss an opportunity."
We Know How to Fight
He also issued a stern warning.
"We are determined to live here. We chose this place deliberately
since we originally came from here. I would not recommend to anyone really
to test us on the battlefield," he said. "If we will have to fight, we
will fight. We know how."
Barak said he planned to call President Clinton early today, and
reiterated that he would not refuse to go to a summit meeting if invited,
although he said the prospect was "not very attractive" under the current
But Barak's openness to a summit should come as a relief to U.S.
officials. Earlier this evening, a senior U.S. official said President
Clinton had failed in his efforts to get Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian
leaders to agree on an emergency meeting.
Fresh Outburst of Violence
Much of the violence overnight, however, was centered in Israel itself.
In the seaside community of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv, two
Israeli Arabs were stabbed, according to Israel TV. In nearby Jaffa, three
Arab-owned apartments were burned while some Jews, chanting "Death to the
Arabs," descended into the streets to smash car windows and throw stones
There were Jewish-Arab clashes from the Sea of Galilee in the north
to the Negev Desert in the south.
Israel's army radio said the scenes looked like "civil war," and
described relations between the country's Jewish majority and Arab
minority as the worst in decades.
In the Palestinian areas, Israeli gunship helicopters were again in
action in Hebron, where 30,000 Palestinians and 450 Jewish settlers live
in an enclave in the city center. There was fierce fighting and
retaliation through the night.
The West Bank and Gaza are now closed off indefinitely, barring all
trade beyond their border and keeping people from workplaces in Israel.
The security road between the two is closed.
Nablus, a Palestinian-controlled town, is under a full blockade after
Israel evacuated the Jacob's Tomb sanctuary and the Palestinians
Ten separate Palestinian villages in the West Bank reported being
attacked by the inhabitants of nearby Jewish settlements who threw stones
at homes and cars before the Israeli defense forces intervened. An Israeli
reporter was injured in one incident, hit by settlers' stones.
The Israeli army has been given the green light to use heavier
weapons, including machine gun fire, against demonstrators. More tanks
have moved into the West Bank and Gaza, and towards the Israeli Arab
regions in Israel itself.
Barak spokesman Nachman Shai had earlier said that Israel was willing to
give Arafat more time work out a solution, and international diplomats
more time to mediate.
"We will act to restore calm to the extent that it depends on us,
while also giving Yasser Arafat a certain additional time to do what he
needs to do. There is intense international diplomatic activity which we
cannot reject or ignore," Shai said.
That activity includes calls by President Clinton to both Barak and
Arafat. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan held crisis talks in Tel Aviv
with Israel's acting foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami.
But he warned against high expectations on the diplomatic front. "I
have not come with any magic formula or solution," Annan told a news
conference after the meeting.
Annan, who met with Arafat Monday and is due to meet with Barak
today, issued an emotional appeal to them - as well as to "ordinary men
and women" - to reject violence and "reach out for peace."
Middle East expert Tony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic
International Studies warned that time is running out. "People see this
from two sides. One is the Palestinian suffering but … the other is the
possibility that if this does get out of control, the level of violence
becomes almost hopeless in terms of the near-term future of the peace
process," he said.
"And if you don't contain it now, you have no idea where it is next
week or a week later."
ABCNEWS's Ted Koppel in Tel Aviv, Ghousoon Bisharat in Jerusalem and
Rebecca Cooper in Washington as well as ABCNEWS Radio's Linda Albin in
Jerusalem, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Oct. 10 - U.N. Secretary General Annan will visit Lebanon in the
next 24 hours for talks on the fate of three Israeli soldiers
captured by Hezbollah guerrillas last week, diplomatic sources said.
The sources said it was not yet clear whether the U.N. chief
will meet Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
Hezbollah said today it wants Israel to free 19 Lebanese
prisoners in return for information on the three soldiers, a
spokesman for the guerrillas said today.
"The price for the questions that were carried to us or would
be carried [in the future] is that Israel must release all Lebanese
prisoners and detainees in the occupation jails," Muwafaq al-Jammal
"As for the release of the three Israeli captives, we might
have another price. We are still studying all the proposals to
specify our demands," he added.
Hezbollah guerrillas captured the Israeli soldiers in a border
ambush in south Lebanon on Saturday in the first serious incident
since Israel ended 22 years of occupation in May.
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