03 December 2001
White House, State Department Say Arafat Must Do More to Stop TerrorSearch for Peace in Middle East Must Continue, Fleischer, Reeker Say
Washington -- Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat must do everything in his power to find those who murdered innocent Israelis in the weekend suicide attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa and bring them to justice, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters December 3.
"This is Yasser Arafat's chance to step up, to demonstrate that he is a leader and a leader who is committed to a lasting, enduring peace. It's important for Chairman Arafat to assume that mantle, in the President's opinion," Fleischer said, noting that Secretary of State Colin Powell had spoken directly with him over the weekend.
"Terrorism has got to stop. And we've made that point very clear," Reeker said.
"There has to be sustained action by the Palestinian Authority against those individuals responsible. They need to bring them to justice, but they also need to take action against the infrastructure of those groups that supports those individuals. And there's absolutely no excuse for failure to take immediate and thorough action," the State Department spokesman said.
Fleischer characterized the situation in the Middle East as "complicated and fluid" but said "despite the activities of the weekend," the President "has not, and will not, give up hope that peace can be achieved in the Middle East."
The message from the President is that the United States will continue to be there to assist and to help in that endeavor, Fleischer said, a message reinforced by Reeker.
"We continue to work with the parties," Reeker said. U.S. retired General Anthony Zinni "remains in the region, available to work with the parties to achieve a real cease-fire, which is the paramount focus now in moving forward on this. As the Secretary said, it's a moment of truth for Mr. Arafat," Reeker said.
"We believe that peace can still be achieved. We think that's why it's important that whatever actions the parties take, they've got to consider the repercussions; they've got to look at what happens the day after, and the day after that, as the secretary has said, because there's got to be a movement towards peace so that all the people of the region can live more peacefully, so that their children and grandchildren will have a better opportunity."
Fleischer said that President Bush "thinks that this is the chance now for Yasser Arafat to demonstrate real leadership that is lasting, that is enduring, that puts people responsible for this away and does so in such a way that they cannot get out again and commit more terror.
"The President thinks it's very important that the Palestinian jails not only have bars on the front, but no longer have revolving doors at the back. And that's the President's view."
Following the weekend terrorist attacks on Israel, Bush returned to the White House earlier than expected from Camp David, the Presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains, to meet December 2 with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in Washington for a prescheduled December 3 meeting with Bush.
The two leaders met at the White House for an hour December 2, and then Sharon returned to Israel.
Asked if President Bush at any time during that meeting asked Sharon for restraint, Fleischer said "I think it's fair to say that the United States did not give anybody a green light because nobody asked for a green light."
"The President's point of view is that Israel is a sovereign government. Israel has the right to defend herself. But the President also reminds all to be concerned with the consequences of any actions taken today for their impact on achieving peace tomorrow," Fleischer said.
The President, Fleischer noted, has been sending a consistent message throughout the world about terror. "The President has made clear all along that there can be no good terrorists and no bad terrorists."
Fleischer reminded reporters "that Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other organizations that are operating in that region have already been identified by the State Department as terrorist organizations."
Asked if the United States has any plans to go after Palestinian terrorist organizations, Fleischer said the United States is still involved in phase one of the war on terrorism -- defending the United States against the attack that took place on it September 11, "and that involves Afghanistan and the al Qaeda organization and the Taliban."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)