In the Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
briefed ministers on his eighth trip to the US and claimed
that his visit had been friendly and successful. The Prime
Minister said that his visit was designed to improve the
relationship and deepen understanding on various issues, both
vis-a-vis the Palestinians and regarding strategic issues
such as Iran, Syria, international terrorism and Iraq.
Sharon emphasized that US President Bush had reiterated both
the US's commitment to the security of Israel and its
citizens and that there would be no progress in the
diplomatic process without the complete dismantlement of the
terrorist organizations and a complete halt to terrorism and
violence. President Bush said that he had passed a sharply
worded message to this effect to the Palestinians during Abu
Mazen's recent visit to the US.
The prime minister noted that in addition to the security
issue, he had raised the steps that Israel was taking in
order to help move the process forward, such as releasing
prisoners (while making it clear that Israel would not
release prisoners with blood on their hands), the removal of
main checkpoints, transferring security responsibility for
Palestinian cities and humanitarian gestures (such as issuing
8,500 permits for Palestinians to work in Israel).
Various other issues were also raised during Prime Minister
Sharon's talks in the US. He made it clear that the
construction of the security fence would continue and that it
constituted neither a political nor a security border, but
was just an additional measure designed to prevent terror
activities. It has also cut down on regular crime, mainly
Regarding unauthorized outposts, Sharon noted that the
government had already removed 22 such outposts and intended
to remove 12 additional ones forthwith. Regarding Jewish
settlement, the Prime Minister said that government policy
had not changed and that the communities' fates would be
decided upon in the negotiations that would be held within
the framework of the permanent settlement.
On strategic issues such as Iran, Syria and international
terrorism, the US had a deep understanding and views similar
Citing historical precedents where failure to abide by the
letter of diplomatic agreements led to disaster, Sharon
pledged to insist that the Palestinians fully carry out their
obligations under the road map.
"The experience of the past shows that the worst mistake
after reaching an agreement, is ignoring violations in
implementation, even if they appear small," Sharon said.
Sharon said Israel and the Palestinian Authority are at the
beginning of implementing the road map, which he reiterated
that Israel sees as a performance-based, not timetable-
driven plan. The next stages of the plan can be implemented
only when the first stage, including a "total cessation of
violence," is completed.
In Sharon's view, the basic principle of the plan is that
"there is no progress from one phase to the next before the
full implementation of the previous one."
This is not the view of the Palestinians, who seem to think
that the road map is a timetable.
Sharon said Israel paid a heavy price during the 1973 Yom
Kippur War for overlooking Egyptian violations of the 1970
cease-fire that ended the War of Attrition. One of the
reasons for not acting, said Sharon, who at the time was OC
Southern Command, was the argument that "you don't start
another war, as long as the quiet is maintained, because of a
few technical violations." He said Israel also had assurances
from the US at the time that these violations would be taken
care of, but paid a heavy price in downed planes and wounded
soldiers during the early stages of the Yom Kippur War for
Likewise, Sharon said that for the past three years Israel
has paid a very high price for overlooking Palestinian
violations of the Oslo and Wye accords, including the PA's
failure to dismantle the terrorist organizations, confiscate
and remove illegal arms, and stop the "unbearable incitement"
against Israel in the PA media and educational system.
This time, Sharon pledged, things will be different. Israel
will do this not because it is trying to torpedo the road
map, but rather because it wants to see it succeed.
Defense Minister Mofaz said that the current quiet was
misleading since the terrorist infrastructures still exist.
There is still no tangible Palestinian action against these
infrastructures and the absence of such activity is liable to
endanger the process. The Defense Minister cautioned that
Israel is taking into account the possibility that the
process might yet fail and that terror would resume -- and is
US President George W. Bush said last week that he believes
a Palestinian state could still be achieved by 2005, the
target set in the road map for a two-state solution.
Even though the timetable outlined in the road map is running
way behind schedule, Bush said he believes 2005 is still a
In a solo press conference ahead of his departure for a
month at his Texas ranch, Bush reiterated his conviction that
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
understands the need to fight terrorism.
Bush echoed Sharon's call for Abbas to break up Palestinian
terrorist groups so they no longer pose a threat to Israelis.
If that were done, he added, the security fence would become