WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's declaration of war against the Palestinians will not work and should be reconsidered.
"If you declare war against the Palestinians and think you can solve the problem by seeing how many Palestinians can be killed — I don't know if that leads you anywhere," Powell said.
Testifying to a House Appropriations subcommittee on the State Department's budget, Powell took a tough line toward Sharon that contrasted with President Bush's reaction to spiraling violence in the Mideast.
While Bush on Tuesday blamed only the Palestinians, Powell confronted Sharon, who has publicly declared war on the Palestinians and has said Israel intends to continue its bloody assault in reprisal for terror attacks.
"Mr. Sharon has to take a hard look at his policies and see whether they will work," Powell said.
The Palestinians are experiencing "enormous difficulties," Powell said, unable to get to their jobs. And, he said, "everybody is a second-class citizen where you cannot go out for an evening walk" because of fear of attack.
Both Israelis and Palestinians are in a tragic situation, he said.
"Both sides are following policies that lead to more violence," he said.
At the same time, Powell was unsparing in criticism of Yasser Arafat, He said despite Israel's confinement of the Palestinian leader to his West Bank compound, Arafat can use the telephone and is capable of ordering a halt to the attacks.
"Mr. Arafat can do more and he must do more," Powell said.
Powell said peace initiatives by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States will not accomplish anything if the fighting persists.
"You can come up with all the ideas in the world but they are not going to move us forward until the violence ends," Powell said.
For his part Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., severely criticized Israel. He said Israeli vigilantes were blowing up Palestinian installations.
Bush has praised a peace initiative by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as a "very positive development" and said he supports Israel's suggestion for preliminary talks with the Arab kingdom.
Abdullah has offered Israel peace and security in exchange for all the land the Arabs lost in the 1967 Six Day War. So far, the proposal is being described by Americans and Saudis as a vision, not a blueprint for peacemaking.
Israeli President Moshe Katzav and other Israeli officials have volunteered to go to Saudi Arabia, which has no diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, to pursue the proposal. But the Saudis are cool to the idea.
Bush, at a joint news conference Tuesday at the White House with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, said he appreciated "those in Israel who are trying to find out exactly what it means."
Bush also praised Mubarak's offer to act as host for talks between Sharon and Arafat as a move that "will help lead to peace, hopefully."
In Israel, Sharon let it be known that he saw no point in meeting with Arafat while Palestinian attacks were taking a heavy Israeli toll. Mubarak said in a Washington speech that he had refused to meet with Sharon unless Arafat attended as well.
Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign policy adviser, Adel al-Jubeir, said leaders of more than 40 countries support the Saudi initiative, but "Mr. Sharon doesn't support it. Half his government doesn't support it."
"We don't see any indication that the Israeli government accepts even the principle of withdrawal," al-Jubeir said Tuesday on PBS' NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.
Bush said Americans and Egyptians were gravely worried about the escalating violence. "Both our countries view this situation with great alarm," he said.
Yet the two presidents took conflicting positions on the violence.
Bush emphasized a need to stop Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Mubarak demanded that Israel ease up on the Palestinians.
On Wednesday, his last day in Washington, Mubarak had meetings scheduled with members of Congress, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee.