During his press conference yesterday with Ariel Sharon, Powell again said that a temporary terrorist ceasefire would be a "good start," while Sharon said that this would not be acceptable. After his meeting with Abu Mazen, however, Secretary Powell seemed to finally get it straight when he called for "rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure."
Sharon related to this point in an interview with Ynet this morning, emphasizing Powell's latter call "for the PA to fight terrorism and dismantle the terrorist organizations." Sharon said that Israel has weakened Hamas and Islamic Jihad to what is possibly their weakest point in several years, and that now is the time for Abu Mazen to act against them:
"If they are given a chance to re-organize, to manufacture and smuggle in weapons, they will be quiet for a few months - and then [the terrorism] will erupt again. This will, of course, force us to take very vigorous action, because we will under no circumstances accept terrorism against us."
Sharon also said that the reason he had agreed to a PA state is to "solve the problems of the Palestinian refugees" - implying that there was thus no reason for the PA to continue to bring up its demand for the "Right of Return." Tourism Minister Benny Elon related to this point in his recent proposal of an alternative to the Road Map. Elon writes in the plan, which he presented to American legislators and other leaders, that "trying to seat two peoples on the western side of the Jordan River" is "unworkable" and "dangerous." He further states that allowing the refugees and their descendants - a total of up to four million Arabs - to live in Yesha will not solve the refugee problem, but "will instead guarantee the next round of terrorism and warfare."
Prime Minister Sharon said that he believes in Abu Mazen's ability to take the necessary steps:
"I told people in the PA that the era of declarations, speeches and verbal obligations is over. Only actions will count… We are willing to help. We have carried out a series of easing gestures. But we made clear that we can make security-related gestures only when we see real Palestinian actions on the ground - intelligence, arrests of terrorists and their accomplices and those who dispatch them, and putting them on trial and punishing them. The next thing is to dismantle the terrorist organizations, and then to collect the illegal weapons."
The Prime Minister hinted that coalition parties that object to his diplomatic plans could be replaced in the government with Labor. Regarding Syria, Sharon said that Syria's newfound moderation is only the result of American pressure.