Sharon Says West Bank Offensive Won't Stop
04/07/2002 04:02 PM
Over 10,000 people demonstrated near the United Nations headquarters in Midtown in support of Israel on Sunday, as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said the offensive in the West Bank will continue.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Rabbis and elected officials who spoke at Sunday’s rally blasted President George Bush's demand that Israeli troops withdraw, and they called on Sharon to ignore the president’s plea. Protestors held up signs that called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a terrorist, as well as pictures of Israeli victims from the conflict.
“Telling Israel it has a right to fight terror but must withdraw before destroying the terrorist infrastructure is like America declaring it has the right to fight to fight terror but will, without delay, withdraw from Afghanistan,” said Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.
On Saturday, Bush called for Israeli forces to withdraw “without delay” from Palestinian-controlled areas in the West Bank. Sharon promised to “expedite” the operation, but he has declined to offer a timetable as the offensive continues.
In a speech to the Israeli parliament Monday morning, Sharon said the military operation would eventually end, but not until the Palestinian militias have been crushed. He said he would meet with Arab leaders anywhere for a summit on peace, but without any pre-conditions.
“Negotiations for peace can only start and move ahead after terrorism stops,” Sharon said.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Morocco Monday for a campaign to swing moderate leaders behind the U.S. peace initiative. Powell is scheduled to meet with Sharon in Jerusalem later this week as he seeks to broker a cease-fire.
It has not been determined whether Powell will meet with Arafat, who has been confined to an office in his Ramallah compound by Israeli troops since the offensive began March 29. Powell said Sunday he would meet with the Palestinian leader “if circumstances permit" - depending on security, access and the agenda.
The protestors in New York booed Powell’s trip, saying Israel’s battle to fight terrorism has the same justification as the U.S. war in Afghanistan to uproot Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Natalie Narzyc, a young Israeli citizen who served in the army, said there may be more of a moderate view among the Israeli public of the Bush administration’s stand than among the protestors on the East Side.
“Israel understands that, yes, we're going to have to withdraw,” said Narzyc. “I don't know how or under what terms. I don't know that the same crowd that's here would be the same crowd in Israel.”
The rhetoric at the protest was too harsh for one Palestinian onlooker. “The message is the message of war,” said a Palestinian Manhattan resident who identified himself only as Tony, “and I urge the leaders of this community, the Jewish community, to give the message of peace, the message reconciliation, which is the end of occupation.”
Security was tight at the passionate - though orderly - “Solidarity Rally For Israel,” with police searching coats and backpacks before demonstrators were allowed past metal barriers into pens outside U.N. headquarters.
Sunday’s rally was just the latest in a series of demonstrations in support of both the Israelis and Palestinians in New York City in recent weeks, though the numbers have been growing. On Saturday, about 1,000 pro-Palestinian protestors rallied at Brooklyn Borough Hall and then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall.
Meanwhile, violence was reported around the West Bank Monday as the Israeli offensive into the West Bank entered an 11th day. Israeli helicopters fired missiles into a refugee camp in Jenin.
Troops had used loudspeakers to warn about the impending attack, urging militants inside to surrender, though most people did not evacuate. Militants said they will fight to the death.
Smoke was also seen rising from a compound near the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where Palestinian gunmen have been surrounded for Israeli forces for a week. One report says a Palestinian policeman was gunned down by Israeli soldiers while trying to put out a fire.