Monday, April 12, 2004

Thanks for NOTHING Mr. Sharon

Sharon's latest proposal...doomed to failure

When he arrives in Washington this week to seek the "blessing" from the Administration for his latest unilateral proposal, Sharon will, once again, have managed to antagonize not only Palestinians but...the whole Arab/Muslim world.

Thanks for nothing Mr. Sharon.

Given that we are fighting a "war" against hatred, has it ever occurred to Sharon that he could contribute to winning the war by declaring Jerusalem an OPEN CITY and inviting Christians and Muslims to participate in its governance?

Such an invitation would be applauded all across the globe and, coupled with the establishment of a VIABLE Palestinian state, would go a long way toward winning the war against hatred.

Instead, Sharon and his "neoconservative" cohorts in the U.S. have not only worked tirelessly to drag our nation into war on Iraq, but...are presently compounding their misguided policies by proposing steps that will further antagonize the world.

And so, the vicious cycle will continue unabated:

Wash Post - Monday, April 12, 2004

Betting On the Sharon Plan By Jackson Diehl

Critics who still chastise the Bush administration for failure to "engage" with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem not to have noticed that over the past several months the White House has been more deeply involved in trying to broker a breakthrough than at any time since President Bill Clinton's Camp David summit in the summer of 2000. The outcome of these mostly secret and underreported parleys will begin to emerge this week, with the latest visit to Washington of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- and the result could be President Bush's commitment to another Middle Eastern gambit that is as risky as it is bold.

The audacity flows from Sharon, who aims to abandon a decade of efforts to arrange a negotiated settlement between Israel and a new Palestinian state. Instead, with the consent of the United States, Israel would unilaterally draw a de facto border of its own choosing, evacuating most of the Gaza Strip while effectively annexing large chunks of the West Bank, and retreat behind the controversial security barrier it is constructing. As the 76-year-old prime minister sees it, a peace settlement, and a Palestinian state, would be put off indefinitely. "This situation," he told an interviewer recently, "could continue for many years."

Sharon's aims are simple: to make it possible for Israel to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism while holding on to far more territory and West Bank Jewish settlements than it could hope to keep in any negotiated peace.

For the Bush administration, the attraction is the prospect of an Israeli evacuation of at least several thousand settlers, the tamping down of violence that crimps U.S. initiatives across the region, and the limitation of Sharon's territorial ambitionss to a line that still might allow for the eventual creation of a second state in the West Bank and Gaza.

That's why a team of three senior U.S. officials has made three visits to Jerusalem since the middle of February, following up on more numerous trips to Washington by Israeli envoys. The White House has been negotiating in secret with Sharon and his planners over the exact route of the fence as well as the number of settlements to be evacuated in Gaza and the West Bank. Sharon has agreed to a few modest -- and in his mind temporary -- modifications of the fence, as well as the evacuation of four of the 128 West Bank settlements.

In exchange he is seeking far-reaching assurances from Bush, codified in a memorandum or letter, that would put the United States on record as endorsing the route of the fence and agreeing that Israel will never return to its 1967 borders. With Washington's assurances in hand, Sharon plans to seek approval for his plan in a referendum of his Likud party at the end of this month, and then fashion a new governing coalition to implement it.

That's where the risk for the Bush administration begins. By striking a deal with Sharon, Bush would put himself in the position of shielding the Israeli leader from international backlash while he proceeds to overturn the apple cart of the Middle East peace process and effectively confiscate 15 percent of the West Bank. He could have the United States appear to prejudge in Israel's favor key terms of a final settlement. He would open the way for upheaval in the Palestinian territories and leadership, with unpredictable results. And he would do so with a man whose previous attempts at bold geopolitical enterprise -- notably the 1982 Lebanon war -- led to disasters for Israel and the United States.

American officials who have dealt with Sharon through his many military and political incarnations over four decades can only be unsettled by the way his new project resembles Lebanon and other failed ventures from his past. There is the secrecy with which a small team around him is assembling the plan, a plan so far only partially disclosed even to the Israeli cabinet; the reckless tactical improvisation, seen in the recent assassination of the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin; and the dependence on a U.S. president's passivity and reluctance to confront an Israeli ally.

"A situation has been created in which it is possible to do the things I want and to get an American commitment," Sharon told the newspaper Haaretz 10 days ago with characteristic candor.

White House officials seem to believe they can fill the holes in Sharon's plan and steer it back to the more conventional path of the peace process. They have been quietly soliciting European and Arab support for the Gaza evacuation and for a parallel attempt to prevent Palestinian extremists from seizing power -- a danger to which Sharon appears indifferent. Bush will meet today with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and next week with Jordan's King Abdullah; the Palestinian foreign minister is due that week in Washington.

The bet is that an Israeli withdrawal can be used to trigger a move toward the two-state settlement Bush has called for, rather than the long-term freeze Sharon envisions. Like the Israeli's own gamble that he can overcome the resistance of his settlers, keep his government in office and evade a looming criminal indictment, it is, at best, a long shot.<<


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