WASHINGTON – A high-level Egyptian delegation is in Washington to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to register rising Arab sentiment against Israel.
There is no indication the Bush administration is prepared to shift its policy on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Arabs, and European governments, want the United States to intercede and push for confidence-building measures even while the conflict persists in the Middle East.
The administration's view is that the fighting must stop first and that it is up to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take that step.
Israel also is insisting on an end to conflict as a prerequisite to renewed peacemaking. Otherwise, the 11-month Palestinian intifada, or uprising, might appear to have scored a success in forcing Israel to take such steps as freezing construction at Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza.
A freeze is one of the proposals contained in the Mitchell Commission report. Implementation awaits a cooling-off period that has failed to materialize.
President Bush has deplored the violence and urged Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint.
On Wednesday, he said, "The most important thing is that everyone realize that peace is preferable to war."
A day earlier, he said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "must clamp down on the suicide bombers and the Israelis must show restraint."
The State Department has condemned both Palestinian and Israeli attacks.
"The Palestinians need to do a great deal more to control the violence, pre-empt attacks by suicide bombers and arrest those responsible for the violence," Philip Reeker, the deputy spokesman, said Wednesday.
Balanced against that was Reeker's admonition to Israel that its incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas are provocative, do not stop the violence and undermine efforts to diffuse the situation.
Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, D-N.Y., met with Arafat Tuesday night in the Palestinian leader's headquarters in Ramallah, on the West Bank, and on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"I told Chairman Arafat that the terrorism was unconscionable and that the goals and aspirations of the Palestinian people cannot be accomplished by suicide bombers killing innocent men, women and children," Ackerman, the senior Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee, said in a statement.
Ackerman gave Arafat the names of four suspected terrorists provided by Israeli intelligence.
Sharon, meanwhile, said he was willing to make tough decisions and painful concessions to live peacefully with the Palestinians, Ackerman said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.
But Sharon said he would never talk under fire, Ackerman said. "This is a game of chicken and Sharon does not know how to blink," the New York Democrat said.
The Egyptian delegation, headed by Osama el-Baz, national security adviser to President Hosni Mubarak, arrived here Tuesday.
The Egyptians are holding meetings with lower-level officials until Powell and Rice see them separately on Friday.
Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher said Monday night that time may be running out on what he called Israeli colonialism.
"We've seen through the eras that colonialism in its last hours becomes more oppressive," Maher said in a Cairo seminar, carried by the Middle East News Agency. "We are aware of this fact and we want to expedite the end."
Maher said Egypt's role is to support the Palestinians and help them through political means to achieve peace and independence.
At the State Department, spokesman Reeker said, "We've long valued Egypt's critical role with the parties, and we welcome this opportunity to consult on the situation."