Pullout Plan Faring Well With Bush, Arab States

America Accepts Assault on Hamas

By Ori Nir

Published April 02, 2004, issue of April 02, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

WASHINGTON — Despite his mounting legal and political problems at home, Prime Minister Sharon is making headway in securing U.S. support for his unilateral withdrawal plan and aggressive efforts to crush Hamas, according to American and Israeli sources.

Encouraged by the relatively mild response of Arab leaders to Israel’s assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Bush administration is seeking Arab support for Sharon’s plan for a pullout from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In a sign of Sharon’s progress in Washington, the administration, after initial skepticism, is considering ways to reward the prime minister for uprooting Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, American and Israeli sources said.

The White House is also willing to accept, with some limits, Sharon’s pre-withdrawal strategy of launching a grinding assault on the Hamas leadership and infrastructure in Gaza.

“The Americans are basically telling us: ‘Do it, but do it quietly, so that the ricochets don’t reach Baghdad,” an adviser to Sharon told the Forward. “They are saying: ‘Do what you need to do, but keep our regional interests in mind.’”

Sources close to the White House confirmed that the prevailing view in the administration is that Israel has the right to fight Hamas and that a concerted Israeli military effort against the Islamic group would eventually make it easier for the Palestinian Authority to confront militant groups after an Israeli withdrawal. This view, sources said, was reinforced earlier this week when the new Hamas leader, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, lashed out at Washington. Speaking to a crowd of 5,000 at a Gaza City memorial ceremony for Yassin, Rantisi declared: “Bush is an enemy of God, an enemy of Islam, an enemy of Muslims.” He continued: “America has announced a war against Allah, Sharon has announced a war against Allah. Allah announces a war against America, Bush and Sharon.”

Replying to Rantisi’s vitriol, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: “Peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be achieved by dismantling and disarming the terrorist capabilities of organizations that take innocent lives in order to prevent the peace process from moving forward. We don’t think that Hamas and other Palestinian groups should be permitted to undermine the aspirations of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people.”

Boucher’s comment was interpreted by Israeli diplomats as a sign of U.S. support for Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.

A delegation of three senior U.S. officials — William Burns, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs; Stephen Hadley, deputy director of the National Security Council, and Elliott Abrams, the council’s senior director of Near Eastern and African Affairs — traveled to the Middle East this week in an attempt to promote Sharon’s plan, which the White House recently characterized as a “positive” and potentially “historic” interim step.

Sharon is expected to present a detailed plan to President Bush when he visits the White House in two weeks. Bush is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak several days before the Sharon visit and with King Abdullah II of Jordan several days after.

“Sharon’s ability to set the agenda is almost as stunning as the relative passivity among all the other parties,” said Jon Alterman, a former state department specialist on the Middle East who now heads the Washington-based Middle East program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Burns, Hadley and Abrams are engaged in “an ongoing dialogue between us and the Israeli government, but also between us and other regional players” as to how Sharon’s plan can advance President Bush’s vision of a two-state solution, Boucher said. The spokesman did not mention the road map. An Israeli diplomat in Washington noted that American officials barely give even public lip service to the American-backed plan, which was based on reciprocal, bilateral Israeli-Palestinian steps. “The only game now is Sharon’s unilateral plan,” said the Israeli diplomat.

Sharon’s approach, Israeli and American sources said, may assuage two major American concerns: that an Israeli pullout would allow Hamas to take control of Gaza afterward, and that it would be seen as a victory for terrorism.

Senior Israeli sources said that Sharon and his advisors have been trying in the past weeks to convince a skeptical Bush administration that Sharon’s disengagement plan does not represent the permanent collapse of the U.S.-backed road map, but instead reinforces Washington’s strategic interests and boosts President Bush’s political standing.

“What we are basically telling the Americans is that we are performing maintenance to the road map,” a senior adviser to Sharon told the Forward. “We are preserving the option that the road map could be applied in the future. And Bush knows that if that will eventually succeed, he will cut the coupons.”

The aide to Sharon said that at first the Bush administration was taken aback when Israeli officials asked for a “reward” in return for the Gaza pullout. Why, administration officials reportedly wondered, should America reward Israel for taking a step that serves its own interests?

“What we are explaining to them, however, is that we are negotiating with them, in lieu of the Arab party, because we have no Palestinian partner,” the senior aide said.

“We are taking the risks here for Bush to be able to say: ‘I am not only a man of war but a man of peace. I have brought a breakthrough in the Middle East,’” the Sharon aide said. “We the Israelis will fulfill our part of the road map, and you the Americans will deliver the rest.”

He added that, from a political point of view, in order to carry out a grand move of uprooting all of Gaza’s Jewish settlements and some of the West Bank settlements, Sharon needs to show Israeli voters a “significant reward.”

The Bush administration has reportedly turned down Israel’s chief request, that as a reward for the pullout, America will guarantee that any final deal with the Palestinians will allow Israel to keep the West Bank settlement blocs of Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel.






Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • 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.