Israel-US See 'Eye-to-Eye' On Israeli-PA Conflict, Sharon Says
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel and the U.S. see "eye-to-eye" on how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel is not worried that it will be pressured into making a deal with the Palestinians once the crisis in Iraq comes to a conclusion, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said.
The Quartet - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - has been working on a U.S.-sponsored "road map" designed to bring about an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state and an eventual permanent agreement between the two.
Both Israel and the Palestinians have expressed reservations over the road map, and the U.S. and other members of the group have also had their differences.
Sharon created a stir with comments published over the weekend in Newsweek magazine in which he said that the Quartet is "nothing." About the road map, Sharon said, "Don't take it seriously! There is [another] plan that will work."
"In the Quartet forum, which the United States and other countries are a party to, Israel and the United States see eye-to-eye on the proper interpretation and the recommended methods of implementation of President Bush's speech, which I said before, we in principle, we accepted it," Sharon told journalists in Jerusalem.
"We worked out a plan and together with the White House, which I would say in principle, [is] very close to President Bush's address on the 24th of June," Sharon said.
In a major Middle East policy address in June, Bush called on the Palestinians to elect a new leadership not "tainted" by terror and for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the next few years.
"There is one problem and one obstacle," Sharon charged. "The obstacle is Mr. Arafat."
Speaking at a press conference for foreign journalists on Sunday, Sharon said that Arafat has brought terrible suffering on his own people, and while there are Palestinians that want to "talk peace" Arafat is preventing them from doing so.
The problem is not with America or Israel, Sharon said. "We understand that he should be ignored...[but] the rest of the world [needs] to understand the damage that he is causing...
"There are several members [of the Quartet] all very important...one of those members and Israel see eye-to-eye," he said.
Sharon said that he will support the establishment of a Palestinian state, but first there must be a full cessation of terror as "a pre-condition for any move forward."
The Palestinians must then dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, including the interrogation of terrorists and their commanders and supporters, collecting illegal weapons for destruction by a third party, advocating peace and ceasing incitement, while Israel provides for contiguity so that the Palestinians can travel within PA areas.
Then Israel would be ready to recognize a "fully de-militarized Palestinian state without final borders."
The EU has been pressing for a soon establishment of a Palestinian state without pre-conditions.
Some analysts and diplomats have been saying that once the crisis with Iraq has been dealt with, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be next on the agenda to be resolved.
Arab states, and to some extent, Europe, have been highly critical of the U.S. for what they see as its heavy-handedness against Iraq on the one side and giving Israel free rein to deal with the Palestinians on the other side.
Washington has been critical of some moves that Israel has made in what it considers to be its war against terrorism, but has generally backed Israeli military actions against the Palestinians.
Sharon says he doesn't see any reason why Israel should come under pressure once the situation in Iraq has been resolved.
"Israel is a peace-seeking country and we were ready to go very far and I don't know any other country in the world that never lost a war that was ready to make painful concessions for a genuine, durable, and real peace," the prime minister said.
"So there is no reason to put any pressure upon Israel," he said. Israel is ready to make political concessions but not when it comes to the security of its citizens, he added.
Israeli-American relations are better than they have ever been, Sharon said.
"Israel is a democracy, the only democracy that exists here sharing the same values that the United States is sharing. We stand together against terror, against local terror, regional terror, international terror and therefore I don't see any reason for Israel to worry," he added.