By THOM SHANKER and GREG MYRE
York Times" -- -- RAMALLAH, West Bank,
Jan. 14 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, pledging
deeper engagement in the Middle East peace process, met
today with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud
Abbas, who rejected suggestions for establishing a
temporary state within provisional borders and pledged
that any American money to bolster his security forces
would not be misused.
“I have heard loud and clear the call for deeper
American engagement in these processes,” Ms. Rice said
after two and a half hours of talks with Mr. Abbas.
“The United States is absolutely committed to helping to
find a solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live
in security, in which they can live in peace and in
which they can live in democracy,” she said, adding,
“You will have my commitment to do precisely that.”
Ms. Rice’s visit to the Palestinian government
headquarters was clearly an effort to bolster Mr. Abbas
in his struggle to regain the political advantage over
Hamas, which took control of the parliament in recent
But, likewise, the Israeli officials she is meeting
during two days of shuttling between Israeli and
Palestinian officials also are showing weakness in the
polls. And Ms. Rice’s job of trying to accelerate
progress on the “road map” — a step-by-step process for
resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute — is
overshadowed in the minds of many here by new Bush
administration initiatives toward Iraq and Iran.
None of the parties to the talks here predicted any
Although no formal proposal has been presented, some
Israeli officials have floated the idea that the peace
process could be accelerated by establishing a
provisional Palestinian state within temporary borders
to be subsequently set.
But Mr. Abbas said the idea would never work, fearing
that the Palestinians might be locked into an inferior
“We have also noted to Minister Rice our decision to end
any temporary or transitional solutions including a
state with temporary borders because we do not believe
it to be a realistic choice that can be built upon,” Mr.
Abbas said during a joint news conference with the
secretary of state.
Mr. Abbas also issued assurances that there would be
careful spending and accounting of American money should
Congress approve a State Department proposal for $86
million in “non-lethal assistance” to enhance those
branches of the Palestinian security forces directly
under his political wing — as opposed to those loyal to
“Be confident that we will not misuse any aid that we
receive from any party,” he said, noting that vehicles
and communications equipment, as well as weapons, had
been destroyed in clashes with the Israelis.
The Rice-Abbas meeting was held in the Palestinian
government compound in Ramallah, just across a cement
lot where construction is under way on a mausoleum for
Yasir Arafat, the deceased Palestinian leader. An
artist’s rendering of the tomb and adjacent mosque
captured an elegant, almost Frank Lloyd Wright
combination of natural construction materials, simple
angles and ornamental pools.
Last month, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, met
with Mr. Abbas and offered a number of concessions aimed
at strengthening the Palestinian president’s position.
While Mr. Abbas said the session with the Israeli leader
was “a good meeting,” he also said, delicately, that “we
are waiting for the application of our agreements.” For
her part, Ms. Rice had described the Israeli-Palestinian
session as a reason for optimism.
But a spokesman for Mr. Abbas, Mohamed Edwan, gave a far
more pessimistic review of talks between the Israeli and
Mr. Edwan said that several agreements emerging from the
Abbas-Olmert session, including a review of checkpoints
and establishing a process for releasing prisoners, had
languished, and he complained that a meeting that
produced promises with no subsequent progress could only
serve to weaken Mr. Abbas. It “hurts him rather than
benefits him,” Mr. Edwan said.
Mr. Abbas’s rivals in Hamas offered even more negative
assessments over all of the Rice visit and recent
Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister
Ismail Haniya of Hamas, said of Ms. Rice: “She said that
she is here to listen, but the situation needs movement,
Referring to previous pledges by Israel, he said, “What
about Israel’s release of the money, the easing of
movement, the removal of checkpoints?”
“Even on these issues, she hasn’t come with anything
new,” Mr. Yousef said.
They included lifting restrictions on Palestinian
movements and releasing $100 million in tax revenue that
Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians, but has
been withholding since Hamas came to power.
In Jerusalem, where Israeli ministers gathered for the
weekly Cabinet session, several expressed growing
frustration at the continued Palestinian rocket fire
coming out of the Gaza Strip.
“It is clear that sooner or later we will have to
respond,” said Avigdor Lieberman, the minister of
strategic affairs and an advocate of tough measures
against the Palestinians.
While other ministers made similar statements, Meir
Sheetrit, the housing and construction minister, said,
“I don’t think it is possible that we should today have
a massive action in Gaza.”
Despite a cease-fire in Gaza that came into effect on
Nov. 26, Palestinian militants have continued to fire
rockets into southern Israel on an almost daily basis.
The rockets are inaccurate and rarely cause serious
damage or casualties, but the Israeli government says it
will not tolerate the attacks indefinitely.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company