As Palestinian Violence Subsides, Israel Must Stop Building Settlements, Powell Says
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
NYTimes, 31 March - WASHINGTON, Mar. 30 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told a large group of American supporters of Israel tonight that Israel faced "difficult choices" in making peace and that as terrorism by Palestinians subsided, Jewish "settlement activity" in the West Bank and Gaza must end.
Speaking to an annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as Aipac, Mr. Powell also gave a vigorous defense of the Bush administration's support for a peace plan drafted over the past year by the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.
The plan, known as a road map, calls for Palestinians to end support of violence, change their leadership, and adopt a more accountable government, while Israel eases the economic hardship of ordinary Palestinians. Eventually, Israel is supposed to end Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza.
The response for Mr. Powell's call for an end to settlements was decidedly mixed. A much warmer ovation came when Mr. Powell firmly endorsed those in charge of the war in Iraq, evidently taking note of the uncertainty about war plans and possible criticism of Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander of allied forces.
"Let me just say this to you," he said. "We are only 10 or 11 days into this war. Baghdad is slowly being encircled. Pockets of resistance are being isolated. The oil fields are secure. Humanitarian aid is beginning to flow. I have total confidence in the plan and total confidence in General Franks and the other leaders who are carrying out that plan."
Mr. Powell also warned Syria that it should abandon its support of terrorism and stop aiding the Iraqi leadership.
Saying the country faced a "critical choice," Mr. Powell said, "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria has the responsibility for its choices and for the consequences."
In speaking of the eventual end of Jewish settlements, Mr. Powell was quoting Mr. Bush word-for-word in the president's own remarks earlier in March. But it was considered significant that he would make the same blunt statement to fervent supporters of Israel, especially because Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has disdained the peace proposal for many months.
Partly in deference to Mr. Sharon, the Bush administration has resisted pressure from Arab countries and Europeans to publish the plan — a seven-page outline of steps toward a Palestinian state to take place over three years. Mr. Bush agreed to publish it only after Prime Minister Tony Blair put intense pressure on him as his own support in Britain was plummeting two weeks ago.
Mr. Powell was clearly a favorite of the crowd, being introduced with a reminder that as a young man in the Bronx, he could even speak Yiddish. He got a huge ovation, and his first line was, "Oy! What a welcome." As the laughter subsided, he said with a grin, "I've been milking that Yiddish kid from the Bronx thing for years."