Sharon Faces American Diplomatic Chill

By Ori Nir

Published July 09, 2004, issue of July 09, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

WASHINGTON — In a sign of what could be an emerging chill in U.S.-Israeli diplomacy, the Bush administration is expressing disappointment with the slow pace at which Israel’s government is dismantling illegal outposts in the West Bank. The administration also is rejecting an Israeli demand that international financial aid to the Palestinian Authority be conditioned on an end to Palestinian terrorism, and is reacting coldly to Israel’s objections to an Egyptian-brokered Palestinian ceasefire.

A series of differences between Prime Minister Sharon’s government and the Bush administration emerged this week during a visit by Israel’s foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, to Washington.

At the heart of the differences, diplomatic sources said, is an American sense that Sharon’s government is not doing enough to create a stable environment in Gaza as it prepares to withdraw from the strip, and an Israeli sense that the United States is giving in to Arab and European pressure to turn an Israeli unilateral move into a bilateral, or even a multilateral, one.

“They are trying to turn this into a bilateral process that brings in Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. We resent that,” an Israeli diplomat told the Forward. “We came up with the disengagement plan because we realized that there was no [Palestinian] partner.”

American officials said in private conversations in recent months that the only way to ensure that the Israeli withdrawal plan succeeds is to turn it from a unilateral move into a multilateral effort that brings in Egypt, Jordan and the international community in an effort to empower a reformed Palestinian Authority. As a result, the PA would be able to fight terrorists and be deemed credible to negotiate.

Israel, however, rejects the two fundamental premises of this approach, according to Israeli diplomats. First, it is only willing to coordinate its unilateral steps with the Palestinians and with third parties, not to open them to negotiation. Second, it objects to empowering the P.A. as long as the authority has not taken actions to combat terrorism.

These differing approaches to implementing Sharon’s disengagement plan formed the background of Shalom’s meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday.

Powell said at a press availability afterward that the United States had “some disappointment” with the pace at which Israel was dismantling unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank. His discussion with Shalom on these illegal “outposts,” Powell said, was “open and candid” — terms that typically denote severity in diplomatic-speak. Israel says it has removed 81 such outposts and that only 28 remain on the ground. Of them, 12 soon will be evacuated and the removal of the other 16 was halted pending court discussions. These numbers are challenged by Peace Now, an Israeli group opposed to Israel’s settlements in the territories, which contends that 53 outposts still must be dismantled.

Powell, according to Israeli diplomats, was not supportive of Shalom’s request that the international community use the financial aid it gives to the P.A. — almost $1 billion annually in the past few years, more than half of the PA’s annual budget — as leverage to make the P.A. fight terrorism. Shalom told reporters after his meeting with Powell that in Israel’s view, “it is unreasonable” that the Palestinians siphon such large amounts of money from the international community while launching rockets at Israeli civilian targets. Last week a Kassam improvised rocket launched from Gaza to the southern town of Sderot killed two Israelis, including a 4-year-old.

Powell reportedly was cold to Shalom’s statement that Israel opposes a Palestinian ceasefire in Gaza. Israel thinks a truce will serve terrorists as an opportunity to re-arm. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is demanding a ceasefire as a condition for sending military advisers to train Palestinian security forces, American and Egyptian sources said. Sources also said Egypt doesn’t want to send its advisers only to have them caught in the crossfire between Palestinian factions or between Israelis and Palestinians. Egyptian envoy Omar Suleiman reportedly asked that Israel bolster a Palestinian ceasefire — once it is achieved — by halting its assassinations of Palestinian leaders and its incursions into Gaza. Israeli officials allegedly rejected the request.

Shalom had two more requests that Powell did not endorse: that the United States veto any United Nations Security Council resolution critical of Israel’s West Bank separation fence, and that the United States oppose a Security Council resolution endorsing Sharon’s disengagement plan. Shalom was asked why the international body shouldn’t support an official Israeli policy. “We don’t think that the Security Council should pass any resolution pertaining to an internal, unilateral Israeli measure,” he answered.

Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach!
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.