The United States is considering no contingency plans should the government of Palestinian Prime
Minister Mahmoud Abbas collapse after the devastating suicide bombing earlier this week.
At least five of the 19 casualties in the Jerusalem bus bombing were
U.S. nationals. U.S. officials said 12 of the injured were also American
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has been unwilling to
consider contingency plans should either Abbas or Security Affairs Minister
Mohammed Dahlan quit or become incapacitated amid a renewal of the
On Wednesday, President George Bush telephoned Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon and relayed condolences to the families of those killed in the latest
Hamas suicide attack, Middle East Newsline reported. Bush, who did not telephone Abbas, was said to have
pledged that the United States would not compromise on what the president
The officials said the administration has become
totally committed to the new PA government and regards Abbas and Dahlan as
the key elements of a U.S. policy that seeks to establish a Palestinian
state and stabilize the Middle East in wake of the war in Iraq.
"The basic question is what happens if Abbas either resigns or is swept
away by his inability to stop an escalation in Israeli-Palestinian
violence," an official said. "The administration considers this as
unthinkable because it is determined to maintain this process for at least
the next year."
The officials said the administration has focused its efforts on
restraining Israeli retaliation for Palestinian insurgency attacks while
promoting the roadmap for a Palestinian state with interim borders by the
end of 2003. White House envoy John Wolf held talks in Jerusalem on Thursday
with Israeli and PA senior officials to prevent the torpedoing of the
diplomatic process and bolster the Abbas regime.
"At this point, we understand the first priority is security, and that
more needs to be done to dismantle the capability of the terrorist groups,"
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We are talking to both
sides and how to move forward to achieve those goals."
"The two leaders said this latest attack on Jerusalem only reinforced
the need to crack down on terrorists and terrorist infrastructure," White
House spokesman McClellan said. "They agreed that the way forward to peace
is through the dismantlement of terrorist organizations."
For his part, Sharon was said to have complained to Bush that the PA had
failed to take steps to stop suicide bombings and other Palestinian attacks.
The prime minister warned that Israel would not agree to advance in the
implementation of the roadmap until the PA dismantles insurgency cells.
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has urged both Israelis and
Palestinians to exhibit patience and expect numerous setbacks in plans to
implement the roadmap. They said the U.S. commitment to the roadmap has also
become a key element in Washington's relations with Arab allies in the
Middle East, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.