Israelis, Palestinians Expect Rice to Implement Bush Policy
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) -The Palestinian Authority is looking forward to the implementation of a two-state solution from Secretary of State Colin Powell's successor, a PA official said on Tuesday, while Israel is looking for continuity in the war against terrorism.
President Bush was expected to nominate National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the cabinet position of Secretary of State on Tuesday after Colin Powell announced his resignation on Monday.
Palestinian Authority cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians are expecting Rice to carry out President Bush's policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We have the greatest respect for her. She is dignified, extremely smart and capable of decision making," Erekat said by telephone."I hope that she will put President Bush's vision of a two-state solution into [action]."
Erekat said the Palestinians would have no problem with the fact that Rice is a woman. "She's a fine person and I'm sure we will be able to deal with her and at the end of the day, U.S. policy is not [determined by the secretary of state]."
Erekat said he wants to see the peace process revived in the region.
"I want to see the U.S. ensuring the carrying out of free and fair elections [in the PA] and help in implementing the road map," he said.
But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Dr. Ra'anan Gissin said Israelis are expecting continuity in American policy from Powell's successor -- starting with a halt to terrorism.
The so-called "road map" peace plan began with a Bush policy address in June 2002 and morphed into a blueprint also backed by the European Union, the United Nations and Russia - the Quartet.
But despite Israeli and Palestinian acceptance of the road map, it never got off the ground. Israel, which attached a list of reservations to its acceptance, insisted that the Palestinians begin by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. It didn't happen.
Israel also was required to dismantle certain settlement outposts in the West Bank. Although some were taken down, others sprang up. Israel also continued building in settlements, which it said was allowable under the premise of natural growth of existing communities.
Now that President Bush has been re-elected, he will have a "free hand" to pursue his policies, Gissin said. The policy will be "more focused," but it will be the same policy.
Washington is not going to put pressure on Israel but will pressure the whole area to make progress, he said. It won't be enough for the Palestinians to say that they are democratizing. They will have to stop terrorism, too, he said.
Even though he is resigning, Powell said he intends to stay engaged in the region for the next few weeks.
He is due in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, next week for an international summit on Iraq, and said he hoped to meet with members of the Quartet.
"We'll be able to convene a meeting of the Quartet to review the bidding and see what the Quartet can do, as part of our road-map efforts, to assist in the process of moving forward down the path laid out by the road map," Powell said in Washington on Monday after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.
The U.S. and Israel are hoping that a new post-Arafat Palestinian leadership will be more inclined to fight terrorism and make peace with Israel.
Calling Powell a "very good friend" of Israel and of peace, Shalom said he was sorry to see Powell go but pledged Israel's help to the Palestinians in their election process.
"We would like to enable the Palestinians to have a free and fair election that is expected to take place on January 9th ," Shalom said. "Everything that is needed will be provided to them in order to ensure that they will have the possibility to elect their new leadership."
But Shalom warned that there would be no "shortcuts" in making peace with Israel and that Israel would like to see the Palestinians implement their road map commitments.
"In phase one, it is written very clearly that they should dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist organizations, and that they will put an end to terrorism, violence and incitement...We would like here to see the involvement of the American administration, which has been involved in all the peace processes that we had in the past," he said.
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