Early in May, on his visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, Colin Powell met with Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian Prime Minister, and separately with a small group of civil society activists, including Hanan Ashrawi and Mostapha Barghuti. According to Barghuti, Powell expressed surprise and mild consternation at the computerised maps of the settlements, the eight-metre-high wall, and the dozens of Israeli Army checkpoints that have made life so difficult and the future so bleak for Palestinians. Powell's view of Palestinian reality is, to say the least, defective, despite his august position, but he did ask for materials to take away with him and, more important, he reassured the Palestinians that the same effort put in by Bush on Iraq was now going into implementing the 'road map'. Much the same point was made in the last days of May by Bush himself in the course of interviews he gave to the Arab media, although as usual, he stressed generalities rather than anything specific. He met the Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Jordan, after seeing the major Arab rulers, excluding Syria's Bashar al-Assad, of course. All this is part of what now looks like a major American push forward. That Ariel Sharon has accepted the road map (although with enough reservations to undercut this acceptance) seems to augur well for a viable Palestinian state.
LRB 19 June 2003 | PDF Download