A4727 BC-EXP-MIDEAST-NYT 11-08 0436
RICE IN WEST BANK CITY, AS U.S. ANNOUNCED AID FOR IT
By ISABEL KERSHNER
(This article is part of TIMES EXPRESS. It is a condensed version of a story that will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times.)
c.2008 New York Times News Service
JENIN, West Bank — In the first visit by an American secretary of state to the city of Jenin, a once-infamous hub of Palestinian militancy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to strike a positive chord at the close of what will probably be her last official trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Rice has acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is unlikely to achieve its goal of an agreement by the end of the year and has devoted this trip to other aspects of the process, chiefly the building of reliable Palestinian institutions in preparation for a state.
Also on Saturday, the militant group Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza, said it would boycott negotiations with the rival group Fatah, and Egypt canceled the talks that were scheduled to begin Monday.
Rice spent three hours in the newly transformed city of Jenin on Saturday and inaugurated a hospital wing renovated with American funds.
During the visit, the State Department also announced a new round of American government assistance to Jenin totaling $14 million, much of it to be spent on road improvements and other infrastructure and educational projects in the area.
Until recently, Jenin was a forbidden zone for foreign dignitaries. The scene of a bloody battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in 2002, it came to represent the capital of terrorism for many Israelis, and for many Palestinians, a symbol of resistance.
Today, though, Jenin is a showcase of success for the Palestinian Authority, following a law and order campaign this spring by specially trained Palestinian security forces, and an example of how a particularly thorny situation can be turned around.
Even under difficult circumstances and despite the city’s difficult past, Rice told reporters at a joint news conference here with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, "this is a place of hope, this is a place of inspiration."
"Ultimately," she said, it is "a place from where the Palestinian state will spring up."
Fayyad said the Palestinians would continue to build the institutions of statehood "despite the Israeli occupation." But he warned that without a political agreement, the measures on the ground would be seen increasingly as "improving the quality of the occupation" and "beautifying it."