WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell is giving fresh encouragement to would-be Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers by scheduling a meeting on Friday with advocates of a total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza (search).
The meeting with Israeli Adm. Ami Ayalon and Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh follows one a week ago with former Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin and Palestine Liberation Organizaton (search) official Yasser Abed-Rabbo.
Powell has said he would remain open to suggestions for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian standoff.
At the National Security Council (search), meanwhile, Yair Hirschfeld, who helped Beilin negotiate an Israeli pullback on the West Bank 10 years ago, called on National Security Council officials.
Ayalon, a former chief of Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, is a retired admiral with a distinctive liberal bent. In Israel, he is considered a potential leader of the left that is opposed to hard-line Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Nusseibeh, a moderate who rejects militant Islam and is president of Al-Quds university (search), has teamed with Ayalon to develop a plan that would establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza generally along the borders that existed before Israel defeated Arab nations in the 1967 Mideast war and took control of the territories.
Jerusalem, which Israel considers its historic capital, would be shared with the Palestinians and each side would administer its own holy sites.
Palestinian refugees would give up their claim to homes in Israel they say they were forced to abandon during Israel's war for independence in 1948.
More than 50,000 Palestinians and 80,000 Israelis have signed their names to the plan.
Mohammed Dahlan, a former Palestinian Interior minister who also was a negotiator in the 1993 Oslo accords (search), said Thursday attacks on Israel were bound to continue until Sharon provides a "general vision" of an accord with the Palestinians.
Dahlan, speaking at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center (search), said "political progress" was necessary in order to make headway on security measures.
He called on Sharon to declare his position on Jerusalem, borders with a Palestinian state and on Palestinians who claim a right to settle in Israel on the grounds they or their families were driven out in 1948.
Control of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is in Sharon's hands, Dahlan said.