WASHINGTON – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who while in office offered major concessions to Yasser Arafat, harshly criticized the Palestinian leader Tuesday, saying, "Maybe he's a real terrorist."
"Maybe it's time to tell the truth to ourselves," Barak said after calling on Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The State Department, meanwhile, said it was mostly up to Arafat to stop the violence that has sidetracked peacemaking between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Department spokesman Richard Boucher condemned a Palestinian gunman's attack on Israelis at a bus stop in Jerusalem. "There's no justification for these kinds of attacks, they only kill innocent civilians," he said.
A little more than a year ago, Barak, then Israel's prime minister, offered Arafat control of virtually all of the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem in exchange for peace. Arafat did not accept the offer, which was endorsed by then-President Clinton.
Asked Tuesday why he had changed his mind about Arafat, Barak said, "Arafat leaves us no choice."
"Arafat happens to behave like a terrorist," Barak said. "He looks like one, he walks like one, he quacks like one."
Barak praised the Bush administration for the way it has pursued al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, saying, "This administration is on the right road."
Barak also met Tuesday with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's assistant for national security. State Department and White House spokesmen declined to provide any account of the talks.
Israeli security officials have said Arafat was directly involved in the attempted smuggling of rockets, explosives and other weapons to Palestinian-held territories. Israel believes the weapons, intercepted by Israeli commandos in the Red Sea, were intended for terror attacks.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has confirmed the Israeli account, but withheld judgment on any involvement by the Palestinian leader. However, he demanded an explanation from Arafat, which Boucher said has not been offered.
"We think that he bears responsibility for the situation," Boucher said. "There are people at senior levels in the Palestinian Authority who are involved in this."
Last week, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli military chief of staff, said during talks at the White House, Pentagon and State Department that attempts to smuggle arms to the Palestinians were continuing.
"We're looking for effective action that will prevent this from happening," Boucher said.
In the meantime, U.S. mediator Anthony Zinni, who failed in two trips to the region to restore a cease-fire, remained in Washington, his future plans indefinite.
"The United States does intend to remain engaged with the parties, but we look very much to the parties to carry out actions to restrain the violence, to stop the violence, and that, at this juncture, applies primarily to Chairman Arafat," Boucher said.
Specifically, the U.S. official said Arafat should take steps to stop the violence, curb the activities of certain groups, dismantle their ability to carry out violence and arrest people responsible for violence and weapons smuggling.
Boucher made no direct reference to Israel's storming of an explosives laboratory at Nablus, on the West Bank, in which four Islamic militants were slain.
Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the Palestinian Cabinet secretary, said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "has to blame himself for pushing the Palestinians to react against this continuous aggression."