Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Ahead of a four-way summit in Egypt, Israel's Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz old visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Palestinians are not doing anything to thwart terror attacks.
Rice, on her first trip to the region since assuming her new post, met with Mofaz and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Monday before heading to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian Authority leaders, including PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Rice is the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with Abbas since he was elected on January 9 to replace the late Yasser Arafat. She also is the first U.S. official to visit Ramallah for several years.
President Bush shunned Arafat, pressing him to crackdown on terrorism and calling on Palestinians to elect a new leader, but Washington has been quick to extend a helping hand to Abbas, pledging $350 million to boost Palestinian efforts at state building.
Abbas has called for a halt to terror attacks, saying they hurt the cause of the Palestinians. He has deployed thousands of PA policemen in Gaza to prevent rocket and mortar fire at Israeli communities.
Mofaz told Rice on Monday that the Palestinian militants are trying to disrupt the peace process and that the Palestinian Authority is not jailing the terrorists, radio reports said.
Israeli security services last week said that there were some 50 active warnings of pending terror attacks and nabbed a youth at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus with a suicide bomb belt in a bag.
Rice, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Sunday, encouraged Israel take steps to promote the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"We will have to...make certain that there is an effective fight against terrorism, because security and terrorism are at the core of peaceful existence," Rice said after meeting with Shalom.
She said Washington is asking Israel to "continue to take the hard decisions that must be taken in order to promote peace and to help the emergence of a democratic Palestinian state."
Abbas and Sharon are expected to declare a truce at the four-way summit hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on Tuesday - a move that the U.S. and international community hope will jump start the peace process by nudging the two sides back to the terms of the road map peace plan.
Rice warned Israel against taking unilateral steps in regards to Jerusalem. It was recently revealed that Israel recently activated a law allowing the government to seize the land of Palestinians who live outside the city, although Israel's attorney general scuttled the move.
Asked in an interview with Israeli television if she had warned Israeli officials against seizing Palestinian land, she said the U.S. believes that unilateral steps in Jerusalem, "particularly those that might appear to pre-judge future discussions, would be unhelpful at this time."
Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its eternal, undivided capital; but the Palestinians want the eastern part of the city, including the ancient Old City, to become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The issue of Jerusalem is considered an issue for "final status" negotiations for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Both Israel and the U.S. agreed that for the time being, diplomatic pressures rather than military measures should be applied to Iran in regard to its nuclear development program, Mofaz said on Monday following his meeting with Rice.
The right way, the way acceptable to the Americans and to the Israelis, is to work through diplomatic channels to bring the subject to the United Nations Security Council for sanctions and to demand wider inspections, Mofaz said in a radio interview.
Rice refused to speculate in a television interview what would happen if the Iranians still did not comply with demands that they halt their drive to enrich uranium, a process which could be used to fuel nuclear weapons.
"We believe that there are diplomatic means at our disposal, at the disposal of the international community to deal with the Iranian problem," Rice said.
"What we need is unity of purpose; we need unity of message to the Iranians, so that the Iranians understand that they cannot be members in good standing in the international community and continue both the internal and external behaviors in which they are engaged," she said.
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