WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) lodged a new appeal Thursday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to prevent terror attacks on Israel and dismantle the groups that carry them out.
With little prospect that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in August will spur peacemaking, as she had hoped, Rice balanced her request to Abbas with appeals to Israel to resume contacts with the Palestinians.
"She urged the Palestinian Authority to act against terrorist groups," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said after Rice's scheduled meeting with Abbas.
On the Israeli side of the anxious standoff, the spokesman said, "We certainly encourage more contact, rather than less contact, to work through issues, to work through problems, to resolve them."
But in the region, force rather than diplomacy took center stage.
Israeli troops raided a West Bank town and fired missiles at Gaza, killing two Islamic Jihad militants and arresting one of the group's top leaders in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis on Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon canceled a scheduled meeting with Abbas in early October and contacts between Israelis and Palestinians have been minimal.
Rice is trying to turn that situation around, pursuing the traditional State Department view that violence should not stop peace efforts.
Talking, McCormack said, "is the way to foster mutual understanding, to foster mutual trust and to arrive at solutions that work for both sides."
Assistant Secretary of State C. David Welch bolstered Rice's efforts with his own talks with Palestinian and Israeli officials, and also with officials of the "quartet," McCormack said. He was referring to the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, which joined with the United States in producing the road map for peacemaking.
As Israel went about its retaliatory actions, McCormack said, "Israel, of course, has a right to defend itself."
"That's well-known and well-understood," he said. But McCormack added that Israel should consider "the consequences of its action on achieving the overall goal that all share — and that, is two sides living side by side in peace and security."