WASHINGTON — Three days after brokering an important new step in the Middle East peace process, the Clinton administration Monday gave a not-so-subtle diplomatic shove to Arab states to support the accord, both politically and economically.
Speaking with a clear sense of frustration at what the administration apparently perceived as a lukewarm reaction among Arab states to Friday's Israeli-Palestinian agreement, a senior State Department official said the support of those states is crucial to the entire peace process.
The Arabs must move politically to normalize relations with the Israelis, the official said, so that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can gain more support for the accord at home. They also must contribute economically to Palestinian development projects so that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat can show moderates he can deliver a peace that pays off.
"Their role is to contribute to the peace process," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The peace process is not a spectator sport. It is absolutely essential that they do this."
The official said the Arab states need to become involved in donor conferences and to become part of the process of multilateral development of the region and "the rolling normalization" of ties with Israel and Netanyahu's Likud Party government.
"They've got to stop blaming [Netanyahu] and start thinking of their own responsibilities," the official added.
The sharp-edged tone of the remarks and the fact that reporters were specifically called in to hear them reflected a sense of urgency on the part of the administration about the need to get the Arab states involved quickly and to keep up the momentum gained with last week's agreement.
Still, that such a high-level official declined to be identified underscored the sensitivity of the process.
Only one official, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin, would address the subject on the record Monday.
"Secretary [of State Madeleine] Albright does believe that with the peace process now reinvigorated, Arab states should do more to normalize their relations with Israel," he said.