- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

The White House yesterday rebuked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for telling the United States not to "appease" Arabs the same way the West acquiesced to Nazi Germany's 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
"The president believes that these remarks are unacceptable," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "Israel could have no better or stronger friend than the United States and better friend than President Bush."
It was an extraordinarily acrimonious exchange between two conservative leaders who previously saw eye-to-eye on most security issues. It reflected Israel's growing unease with the president's outreach to Arab nations, including some that harbor terrorists, to join his coalition against Osama bin Laden.
On Thursday, Mr. Sharon said: "I call on the Western democracies and primarily the leader of the free world, the United States: Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938, when enlightened European democracies decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient, temporary solution."
"Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," the Israeli leader said. "This is unacceptable to us. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism."
Mr. Fleischer said: "The United States is not doing anything to try to appease the Arabs at Israel's expense."
At the September 1938 Munich conference, France and Britain agreed to acquiesce, as part of their "appeasement" policy, to the German annexation of the Sudetenland from their ally, Czechoslovakia. Adolf Hitler said it would be his "last territorial claim in Europe," but in March 1939, he dismembered the rest of Czechoslovakia and in September of that year invaded Poland and started World War II. In this context, "appeasement" has since been considered to mean surrender to insatiable dictators.
Although the Bush administration has been a staunch ally of Israel, Mr. Sharon characterized his nation as abandoned and alone.
"We can only count on ourselves," Mr. Sharon said. "From now on, we will count only on ourselves."
He said Israel will take "whatever steps necessary" to shield its citizens from terrorism and accused Palestinians of sabotaging the peace process.
"Every effort by us to reach a cease-fire was torpedoed by the Palestinians," he said. "The fire hasn't stopped for a minute."
The White House, surprised and angered by the stridency of the remarks, responded on a variety of fronts but stopped short of a personal scolding by Mr. Bush.
"The president's message was conveyed in three ways," Mr. Fleischer said. "It was conveyed through the embassy in Israel; it was conveyed through the National Security Council; and it was conveyed through the State Department."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell telephoned Mr. Sharon several times, conveying the president's displeasure and urging the Israeli leader to redouble his efforts on the peace process. An aide to Mr. Sharon later said his boss was not accusing the United States of acting dishonorably.
In the Middle East, truce efforts crumbled again yesterday as Israeli troops backed by dozens of armored vehicles seized two Palestinian neighborhoods in Hebron in retaliation for deadly attacks on Israelis.
Five Palestinians two gunmen and three civilians died in the incursion. More than 10,000 angry mourners poured into the streets for the funeral, led by dozens of men firing into the air. Elsewhere in the West Bank, an Israeli motorist was killed in a Palestinian ambush.
The West Bank violence and the Bush-Sharon dust-up underscored the complexity of building an anti-terrorism coalition that includes Arab and Muslim nations, some of whom harbor their own strains of terrorism.
Some observers believe Mr. Bush was trying to bolster support among these nations when he said Tuesday that a Palestinian state was "part of a vision" of any negotiated peace in the Middle East.
"The vision has always included, of course, a Palestinian state, so long as the right of Israel to exist in peace and security is also recognized," Mr. Fleischer said yesterday.
"That's very similar to what Prime Minister Sharon himself said on September 24," he added. "The prime minister himself said Israel wants to give the Palestinians what no one else has given them: the possibility of establishing a state. So their remarks on that question are similar actually."
The White House also took pains to separate the Arab-Israeli dispute from the president's war against terrorism in general.
"It's sad to say, but if a beautiful and perfect lasting peace were brought to the Middle East today, terrorism would still exist in this world," said Mr. Fleischer.
He added that the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11 "have not changed American policy" on the Middle East peace process.
Mr. Bush did not speak publicly about Mr. Sharon's comments, preferring instead to discuss his plans to stimulate the shell-shocked economy. He made those comments in the Rose Garden and declined to take questions from the press.
Mr. Bush also met yesterday with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who served as the foreign minister of the Soviet Union during that nation's failed invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr. Shevardnadze, an early advocate of withdrawal from Afghanistan, was asked by reporters yesterday whether he had any advice for Mr. Bush, who is considering military strikes against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Shevardnadze said he had done what was expected of him, adding that now it was Mr. Bush's turn.
The American president, determined to enlist as many allies as possible against the Taliban, yesterday continued efforts to enlarge his coalition. He talked by phone with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, both of whom pledged their support.
Meanwhile, the administration defended its policy of withholding classified information from the public, even as it provides Congress with private briefings into the potential for further terrorist strikes against the United States.
Asked by reporters why the American people aren't entitled to the same warnings provided to Congress, Mr. Fleischer said that "that's another very, very clever way" of trying to get him to release classified information. "I will not," he vowed.

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