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Arafat: Sharon coordinated 'disengagement plan' with U.S.
Haaretz ^ | 12/21/03 | Aluf Benn

Posted on 12/21/2003 5:55:08 AM PST by truthandlife

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said Saturday that he has no doubt that the comments on unilateral disengagement, made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, were coordinated with Washington, the Itim News Agency reported.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Arafat said that in light of what he knows of the U.S. position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he believes that prior to the speech, the "disengagement plan" was presented to United States National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as well as other senior administration officials.

The White House on Friday said that it was "very pleased" with much of Sharon's speech, in which he offered to remove some settlements on the West Bank and make other concessions.

"We were very pleased with the overall speech," spokesman Scott McClellan said in an apparent effort to offset published accounts that focused on his admonition Thursday that Sharon should not try to impose a settlement without negotiations.

Meanwhile, citing sources close to the prime minister, Channel One reported that Sharon is willing to declare early elections in order to get a mandate for his "disengagement plan," if right-wing parties in his government resign, although he would prefer that the present government remain intact.

However, Israel Radio reported Saturday morning that Sharon, in private conversations, said that he was confident in his coalition's strength and that it would remain intact.

McClellan said Sharon had made "some important pledges" about immediate Israeli actions that include eliminating unauthorized outposts on the West Bank and improving Palestinian life by reducing curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints and closures, and by increasing freedom of movement.

Also, the spokesman noted that Sharon had talked about elements of a freeze on Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza.

"We are working hard with the parties to move forward to make progress on the road map," McClellan said, referring to a blueprint for peacemaking that has the backing of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

The spokesman again called on Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) to meet soon, face to face.

Israel Radio reported Saturday that the head of Sharon's bureau, Dov Weisglass, will meet in the middle of next week with Palestinian official Hassan Abu Libda, to prepare for a meeting between Sharon and Qureia.

On Thursday, McClellan gave mixed reviews to Sharon's speech and called for a meeting between the two prime ministers "very soon" and without preconditions.

"We believe that the road map is the way to get to the president's two-state vision" of a democratic Palestinian state existing alongside Israel by 2005, McClellan said.

In cautioning Israel against unilateral moves, President George W. Bush's spokesman said, "The United States believes that a settlement must be negotiated and we would oppose any Israeli effort to impose a settlement."

At the same time, McClellan credited Sharon with taking significant steps toward peace, and said those kind of unilateral steps were desirable.

On another touchy issue, McClellan reiterated U.S. concerns about Israel's construction of a security barrier that the Bush administration has worried will dip too far into the West Bank. Sharon said in his speech that the barrier would be speeded up as a prospective, easily defended border with the Palestinians.

"We oppose a route that interferes with the normal Palestinian life or makes building a viable Palestinian state impossible," McClellan said.

"We have said that the fence should not be - or appear to be - a pretext for taking land, and it should not be something that presses undue burdens on the Palestinian people," he said.

The White House spokesman noted that Sharon spoke of Israel acting alone to end the half-century Mideast dispute only if peacemaking was stalled by the Palestinians.

"We are continuing to work hard with Israel and the Palestinians to make progress on the road map," McClellan said. "And we don't think it is best at this point to be discussing now what to do if progress is not made."

Sharon, in his speech, said he remains committed to the road map and said the sides can always return to it.

McClellan praised that endorsement by Sharon of the road map, and also praised Sharon's call for removing unauthorized outposts on the West Bank and his pledge not to build new Jewish settlements.

That would be consistent with the blueprint developed by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, McClellan said.

The White House also praised Sharon's promise to halt special economic incentives for Israelis to settle on the West Bank and in Gaza.

While they favor the removal of Israeli settlements, many Palestinians are suspicious of Sharon's plan, viewing it as a way to restrict them into smaller areas of land in the West Bank.

But Sharon has insisted that unless the Palestinians crack down on extremist groups that launch attacks on Israelis, his government will essentially force a partition.

The White House spokesman also renewed Bush's insistence that the Palestinians take firm steps against terror and dismantle terror groups.

Earier Friday, a senior American administration official said Sharon's speech at the Herzliya security conference, in which the prime minister unveiled his plan for 'disengagement' from the Palestinians, was a "very positive development" that could restart the peace process.

The official, speaking on condition of anonimity, said Sharon's speech indicated Israel's renewed commitment to the road map and to evacuating outposts and some settlements, and added that he disagreed with accusations by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia that Sharon was threatening the Palestinians by raising the possibility of unilateral moves.

Rivlin: Knesset should be forum for major discussions Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin criticized Sharon's decision to present a major political agenda at the Herzliya conference rather than at the Knesset.

"The Knesset is the only place in which significant discussions should be held, and the government is causing a grave cheapening of the parliament," Rivlin told Army Radio on Friday. He said it's particularly important for political leaders to go first to the Knesset when the issues involved are fraught with controversy and deal with the future of the country, so that serious discussions can be held, Israel Radio reported.

Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid said the steps could start within three months if the Palestinians did not act.

Sharon and Dov Weisglass, head of the Prime Minister's Office, are expected to travel to Washington next month to discuss Sharon's plan with members of the U.S. administration, Israel Radio reported Friday. Sharon -who said in his speech that Israel would unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians, redeploying Israel Defense Forces troops and relocating some settlements - has already presented the plan's outline to the administration during previous meetings, but is scheduled to provide more details in the upcoming trip.

Qureia said Thursday he was "disappointed" that Sharon's speech included "threats" to the Palestinians, in the form of unilateral steps, and said negotiations could start soon if Sharon is ready to talk.

"If Mr. Sharon is ready to start negotiations we can do it sooner than anybody can expect," Qureia said at a press conference in his Abu Dis home, near Jerusalem.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sharon's proposal on Thursday for unilateral steps to separate from Palestinians was no formula for peace.

Asked by CNN what he would do if Israel began making unilateral moves, Erekat said: "With this unilateral approach, they may make peace with Israelis and Israelis; they'll not make peace with Palestinians."

Erekat urged Sharon to stick to the road map. "We invite Mr. Sharon to come immediately with no conditions to the negotiating table on the basis of the road map and let the Americans, Europeans, Russians and the UN - the Quartet members - to be the judges of both of us," he said.

Hamas called Sharon's proposal to unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians "worthless" and pledged to continue its violence.

"Sharon is asking Palestinians to raise white flags, to surrender," said Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "This is totally rejected by our people. We will not surrender and our people will defend themselves."

"It is all worthless," he said of Sharon's speech.

But Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Nafez Azzam said Sharon's speech was a sign that the intifada's tactics of terror were effective. "This is a new language by the Israelis, and this is an evidence that the uprising has created a new fact on the ground," he said.

Criticism from both ends of Israeli spectrum Meanwhile, right-wing leaders complained about the possible moving of settlements while left-wing Knesset members expressed disappointment that Sharon was not ready to take immediate action.

Housing and Construction Minister Effi Eitam (NRP) said his party could not sit in a government that uprooted Jewish settlements, but would wait to see what actually happens.

"The NRP will evaluate Sharon based on his action," said Eitam, the party chairman. "We will not be party to a government that uproots Jewish settlements... Sharon's threat to disengage unilaterally signifies an Israeli declaration of surrender to the war being waged against us by [PA Chairman Yasser] Arafat."

National Union MK Uri Ariel said Friday the settlers feel betrayed. He told Israel Radio the settlers feel like soldiers Sharon sent to the front lines of Zionism, but that now "he's shooting them in the back."

Sharon also came under criticism from the settlers themselves. Pinhas Wallerstein, a veteran settler leader, complained about the moving of settlements and warned that disengagement would create the "a siege on the Jewish settlements." Wallerstein added that Sharon's plan was in essence a decision on the transfer of Jews.

Left-wing leaders did not sound much happier about the speech.

Labor Party chairman MK Shimon Peres said that he was very disappointed with Sharon's speech. According to Peres, "Instead of a decision, we were handed another delay, and a delay that is not necessarily in our favor... Sharon is turning Israel into a hostage to Palestinian demography. If we continue to follow this policy, our situation will get increasingly worse."

MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz) said the Prime Minister talks about the seriousness of the Palestinians as though he himself is serious and making progress.

The architects of the Geneva Accord termed the address "one small step for Sharon, and one giant step toward Geneva," but Yossi Beilin warned the Labor Party not to be drawn into the prime minister's trap. "In Sharon's Herzliya speech, the mountain didn't even give rise to a molehill," he said.

Labor MK Yuli Tamir said, "We waited in anticipation for Sharon`s speech, but we are disappointed and frustrated."

TOPICS: Front Page News
KEYWORDS: arafat; herzliya; israel; sharon; terrorism; us

1 posted on 12/21/2003 5:55:10 AM PST by truthandlife
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To: truthandlife
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat said Saturday that he has no doubt that the comments on unilateral disengagement, made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, were coordinated with Washington, the Itim News Agency reported.

....while Yasser tries to get a phone call in to his best buddy and major benefactor, Saddam Hussein....

2 posted on 12/21/2003 5:59:46 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: truthandlife
Not only is the engagement over Yasser, death do us part is on the horizon...unless you decide to become a Las Vegas act.
3 posted on 12/21/2003 6:42:53 AM PST by PGalt
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