US Congressmen discuss peacekeepers for Mideast
- Washington Times
April 1, 2002
GIs Would Assist Mideast Peace
By Joyce Howard Price, The Washington Times
Members of Congress say the Bush administration has told them it plans to
send American troops to the Middle East as peacekeepers, if peace is ever
achieved between the warring factions.
Lawmakers also say top U.S. officials need to get more directly involved in
trying to end the escalating violence between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday that Gen. Anthony Zinni "told me on
Tuesday that there is a plan to have a very limited number" of U.S. troops
deployed as peacekeepers, if "we were ever to stabilize the situation"
between the Israelis and Palestinians. Gen. Zinni has been trying
unsuccessfully to arrange a cease-fire amid a rash of Palestinian suicide
"It's something that I would be willing to consider," said Mr. Specter,
Pennsylvania Republican, who was interviewed on CBS' "Face the Nation" in
Rome following talks with several Middle East leaders, including Yasser
Arafat, in recent days.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Foreign
Relations Committee, who also appeared on the show, was asked if he would
consider U.S. troops as peacekeepers in the Middle East if conditions were
"In that context, yes, and with European forces as well," said Mr. Biden.
The Washington Times reported Sept. 10 that the Army School of Advanced
Military Studies has devised a plan for enforcing a Palestinian-Israeli
peace accord that would require about 20,000 well-armed troops stationed
throughout Israel and a newly created Palestinian state. However, at that
time, there were no plans to put American soldiers in the Middle East to
police such an agreement.
U.S. troops are part of a multinational peacekeeping force that has
patrolled the Sinai Desert between Israel and Egypt since those nations
signed a peace treaty in 1979.
On CBS yesterday, Mr. Biden and Mr. Specter said they believe President Bush
needs to get more personally involved in trying to resolve the Middle East
"I think there needs to be something dramatic done, and that means the
president has to step up his involvement," Mr. Biden said.
But Sens. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and Mitch McConnell,
Kentucky Republican, interviewed on CNN's "Late Edition," said they believe
the president is doing all he can.
"I frankly think the administration is trying everything it knows. This is
one of the toughest problems that has ever existed in our foreign policy,"
said Mr. Feingold.
The senators were questioned in the aftermath of four back-to-back
Palestinian suicide bombings. There were two attacks yesterday. In the
first, a suicide bomber killed 15 persons and wounded 40 at a crowded
restaurant in the Israeli city of Haifa. Two hours later, seven persons were
wounded when a bomber blew himself up in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in
the West Bank.
Suicide bombs wounded 32 persons in a Tel Aviv restaurant Saturday night and
killed two at a supermarket in Jerusalem on Friday.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush denounced the attacks. "The president condemns these
acts of terrorism," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in
Crawford, Texas, where Mr. Bush spent the Easter weekend at his ranch.
On Saturday, Mr. Bush condemned the wave of suicide bombings and expressed
disappointment that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has not done more to
quell the violence.
Mr. Bush demanded that Mr. Arafat "stand up and condemn" the suicide attacks
and use his own forces to stop them. Mr. Bush placed the blame for the
latest violence on the Palestinians and said he understood the Israelis'
need to defend themselves.
The president did not call for Israeli troops to withdraw from Mr. Arafat's
Ramallah compound in the seaside town of Netanya.
A report yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" said the Palestinian Intifada, a
group made up of Mr. Arafat's own representatives and the leaders of
terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, has issued a
leaflet warning that they are calling for attacks on American targets in the
Middle East. The threat is "in response to what they say is U.S. bias
towards Israel," according to Fox.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said if that report is true,
it sounds as if the Palestinian Authority is declaring war against the
"Unfortunately, it's not surprising, because these terrorists who are
carrying out the suicide bombings against innocent civilians in Israel are
cut from the same cloth as the 19 terrorists who flew those planes and
killed more than 3,000 Americans on September 11," said Mr. Lieberman, an
Orthodox Jew who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in the 2000
On Fox, he said he's afraid Palestinian nationalism has been "hijacked" by a
"fanatical group of terrorist extremists," whose goal is not Palestinian
statehood, but the "annihilation of Israel." He cited what he described as
"some inconsistency" in the Bush administration's pronouncements and
policies with regard to the situation. And he agrees with Senate colleagues
who believe top-level administration officials need to get directly
Mr. Lieberman yesterday recommended that Mr. Bush send Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell to the Middle East to try to "bring the parties together to
talk about a political settlement," possibly based on the "hopeful parts" of
the Saudi peace proposal. He also said Mr. Powell should demand from
Palestinians a "clear statement that their goal is statehood," not the end
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