Speaking at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rice said that Israeli construction between East Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim is against the Bush Administration policy in the Middle East.
Abbas met with Rice on Wednesday evening, prior to his meeting today with President George Bush, Senate and House Leaders, and Vice President Dick Cheney. At the meeting, Abbas is set to raise the issues of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria and the security fence that is being built around Jerusalem. He will request American intervention on this issue and the dismantling of various outposts in the area. The United States hopes that the meeting will strengthen Abbas’s standing among the Arab population in Israel.
Speaking before the Senate’s Foreign Affairs committee in Washington, Rice stated that the United States is concerned about construction around Jerusalem and will be cutting financial aid to Israel due to what she termed “settlement activity.” At the same time, she added that it was important to see the general picture and that as Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, what she believes is a sign of progress.
At the same time, the Bush administration has asked Abbas to bar members of terrorist organizations from participating in next January’s election unless they renounce violence.
Administration officials hope the move will reduce tensions with Israel in the wake of the brutal terror attacks over the weekend that killed three young Israelis and wounded four others. Abbas however, maintains that the best way to reduce the violence is by bringing Hamas into the government, thereby forcing the terrorist group to comply with laws that strengthen law and order.
In Israel meanwhile, the head of the left-wing Meretz opposition party, Yossi Beilin, predicted America will support Mahmoud Abbas in upcoming elections.
Speaking to Galei Tzahal (Army) Radio on Thursday morning, Beilin explained that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a mistake demanding Hamas lay down its arms ahead of the election. Such a move will not occur due to the simple logistics involved, explained Beilin, who indicated with a modicum of certainty that Hamas will disarm following the election.
Beilin added that if Sharon does not permit the Arab sector in eastern Jerusalem to vote in post offices as he indicates will be the case, the election would not enjoy the legitimacy required to result in the formation of a stable PA leadership.
Beilin stressed the international community supports Israel’s demands that terrorists disarm, explaining the question is basically regarding a timetable. Beilin wants a commitment from the Palestinian Authority following the election -- a timetable for disarming Hamas must be announced, permitting Israel to monitor the process to satisfaction.
Beilin stated that at present, he does not believe the PA election will take place in January as scheduled.
It should also be noted that the Hamas organization itself is uncertain as to its future. Reports from PA security officials are in sync with Israeli intelligence information that the terror organization is in the midst of a leadership crisis as its various factions vie for control.
According to reports, Ismail Haniyah, a former aide and close confidant to Ahmed Yassin, leads the so-called moderate faction that feels the time has come to abandon attacks and move to a more political operational base. Haniyah holds a doctorate in economics and has taught in a number of PA universities. He was imprisoned by Israel for four years, deported to Lebanon in 1992, and escaped a number of Israeli targeted strikes.
Seeking to continue with the terror organization’s present line of ongoing anti-Israel terror is Mahmoud al-Zahar, a 60-year-old father of seven. He was imprisoned by Israel for a number of months and was among the 400 terrorists expelled to Lebanon in 1992. PA officials report they too have imprisoned him on a number of occasions.