- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

JERUSALEM, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Sunday slammed European attempts to devise an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, saying the Europeans must first have a "balanced" attitude toward the two sides in the conflict.

Sharon, addressing foreign correspondents in Jerusalem, was referring to efforts by a "quartet" of foreign mediators made up of the United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations.

In an interview with Newsweek, Sharon dismissed the quartet's peace efforts. "Oh, the quartet is nothing! Don't take it seriously! There is (another) plan that will work," he said.

"Israel and the United States see eye-to-eye on the suitable interpretation of and the appropriate methods for implementing President Bush's speech, in contrast to the position of the other quartet members."

Sharon was referring to a plan President George W. Bush presented June 24. It called for a new Palestinian leadership "not compromised by terror" that would lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state which would initially have temporary borders.

"The state of Israel's view is that the U.S. and Israeli visions are the only actual understandings which are likely to result in peace in the Middle East," the Israeli statement added.

An aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat blasted Sharon's statements on the peace plan."Sharon's statements are an attempt to undermine the plan and apportion it before it would be official adopted," Nabil Abu Rudeineh told reporters at Arafat's office in Ramallah.

Earlier this month Sharon prevented senior Palestinian Authority officials from going to a conference, in London, with the quartet, on planned reforms. The Palestinians stayed home but took part in the deliberations though a teleconference system.

Turning cynical of the European involvement, Sharon told a German reporter he wished the day would come when Israel "would be able to help you solve some of your problems."

Sharon said the British, Italian, and Spanish prime ministers, and the French president, "do not understand that in order to move things forward (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat should be removed from any influential position."

The United States, and possibly Russia, "understand that in order to move the peace process faster, Mr. Yasser Arafat should be removed from (a position of) influence," he added.

The Palestinians should have a government, a prime minister, while Arafat "may stay as a symbol," he said.

However, for the EU, "Mr. Arafat is the address," Sharon complained.

Sharon also made efforts to put in context the significance of Israeli casualties in the almost 28-month long intifada. Israel has a population of 5.8 million and Sharon maintained that for a country of its size — the 726 deaths during the intifada would be the same as 40,000 deaths in the United States. The number of wounded is equivalent to 300,000 in the United States, he added.

The arrangement he envisaged would have to start with a complete cessation of Palestinian terror and violence, Sharon said. "It is a precondition for any move forward," he stressed.

The Palestinians would then have to arrest terrorists, their commanders, and those who instigate murders. They would have to dismantle the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and "security/terror organizations." They would have to collect illegal weapons and, hand them over to a third party that would take them out of the area and destroy them, he said.

"Israel, at the same time, should take upon itself to create contiguity (among the separated patches of autonomous Palestinian areas) in order to enable the Palestinians to use their own roads," he said.

"If it will be completely quiet, a full cessation of terrorist activity, incitement and so on, Israel will be ready to recognize a non-military, fully demilitarized Palestinian state without final borders," the prime minister announced.

That state would have a lightly armed police force but Israel would control the external borders. The Palestinians would not be allowed to sign any alliances with Israel's enemies, he added.

Sharon said he proved his sincerity when he talked of establishing a Palestinian state before the primaries in his hawkish Likud Party. At that time he was competing against hardliner Binyamin Netanyahu, now the foreign minister.

"I said that …so that nobody will get up later and say 'You have not warned us you are going to do so.' I got up…and I repeated my plan," he said.

Sharon appears poised to win next week's national elections. Asked to explain his popularity after having been considered almost politically dead several years ago, he quipped: "Maybe they tried to bury me too early…and maybe not deep enough."

(Saud Abu Ramadan in Gaza contributed to this report)

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide