Sunday, December 02, 2007

NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Steven Lee Myers and Steven Erlanger - November 29, 2007

Correction Appended

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 - A day after Israeli and Palestinian leaders committed themselves to negotiating a peace treaty, the Bush administration sought Wednesday to give practical and symbolic impetus to their reinvigorated peace process.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed a retired NATO commander, Gen. James L. Jones, to oversee security, an issue that remains at the heart of the political differences between the Israelis and Palestinians.

At the White House, President Bush met for the third consecutive day with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, though in separate meetings. - - -

The three leaders, with their aides, also met for 20 minutes informally in the Oval Office and then appeared in the Rose Garden as Mr. Bush offered a short statement that seemed strikingly subdued after the emotional appeals of Annapolis.

"Yesterday was an important day, and it was a hopeful beginning," Mr. Bush said, bracketed by the two leaders, their hands behind their backs. "No matter how important yesterday was, it's not nearly as important as tomorrow and the days beyond." - - -

Ms. Rice's appointment of General Jones appeared intended to signal a reinvigoration of the American involvement, something that the administration's critics have said was sorely lacking in Mr. Bush's first seven years in office.

General Jones, a French-speaking Marine officer seasoned in diplomacy, stepped down in December as NATO's supreme commander. Since then he has led the energy institute at the United States Chamber of Commerce. He also led a Congressional commission that reported in September on the shortcomings of Iraq's national police.

Ms. Rice said he would oversee "the full range of security issues" for the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as security cooperation with neighboring countries and American efforts to provide assistance to the Palestinian Authority. - - -

One of the provisions of the agreement reached Tuesday made the United States the arbiter of the commitments under the 2003 road map. Mr. Bush promised in 2003 that he would "ride herd" on the participants to ensure that the agreements were kept - only to see the Palestinian territories descend again into violence and Israeli settlement growth continue. - - -

Officials and outside experts broadly agreed that the prospects for achieving the peace promised at Annapolis would depend on the willingness of the Bush administration to press the two sides to compromise.

Rafi Dajani, executive director of American Task Force on Palestine, a group in Washington that advocates a negotiated settlement and Palestinian state, said all the previous efforts had stalemated because of the failure to police their initial agreements.

More Violence on West Bank

HEBRON, West Bank, Nov. 28 - Palestinian Authority security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas opened fire Wednesday to disperse a funeral procession that had turned into a pro-Islamic rally. It was the second day of violence in this usually staid West Bank city.

At least 24 protesters were hospitalized, some with gunshot or shrapnel wounds and others with injuries from police batons, hospital officials and witnesses said. - - -

The funeral was for Hisham al-Baradei, a local man in his 30s who was killed Tuesday after the police opened fire to end a protest organized by Hizb ut- Tahrir, the Party of Liberation. That demonstration was against the peace conference in Annapolis. - - -

Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting.

Correction: November 30, 2007

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