September 11, 2001, and After
The regional situation was overshadowed by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The Bush administration worked to create an international coalition to respond to terrorism focusing on Osama bin laden and the Islamic fundamentalist al-qaeda movement that he headed and sought Arab and Muslim participation in that effort.
In a statement, bin laden attributed the attacks in part to the plight of the Palestinians and the unequivocal U.S. support for Israel. Although these comments were widely discounted as efforts to split further the United States and the Muslim states, many in the Palestinian and the broader Arab worlds saw this as an accurate depiction of the situation.
In a press conference on October 11, President Bush noted that his administration would continue to focus on resolution of the ArabIsraeli conflict within the context of continued U.S.-Israeli friendship. At the same time, he noted,I also stated the other day that if we ever get into the Mitchell process, where we can start discussing a political solution in the Middle East, that I believe there ought to be a Palestinian state, the boundaries of which will be negotiated by the parties so long as the Palestinian state recognizes the right of Israel to exist, and will treat Israel with respect, and will be peaceful on her borders.
Powell elaborated on these themes in an address at the University of louisville, in Kentucky, on November 19, where he noted a vision of a region in which Israelis and Arabs lived together in peace, security, and dignity. He stressed the need to stop terror and violence and announced the appointment of a new senior adviser, retired Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni, to go to the region to secure a durable cease-fire.
Despite the articulation of the latest U.S. approach and the appointment of Zinni, violence continued and even escalated. The United States continued to press both Israel and the Palestinians to end the violence and terrorism during the conduct of the U.S. military actions against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where al-qaeda had been harbored and aided. However, Israel felt that it had little choice; it launched raids into Palestinian-controlled territory and sought the arrest and extradition of Palestinian suspects in the assassinations as well as a broader cessation of violence in the territories as a prelude to negotiations.