- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

JERUSALEM Prime Minister Ariel Sharon staked out a hard-line position yesterday a week ahead of elections and said Europe was too biased against Israel to be a Middle East mediator.
A top aide said the prime minister did not consider a U.S.-backed plan for Palestinian statehood to be realistic.
Mr. Sharon has repeatedly promised to seek peace and make "painful concessions" if re-elected Jan. 28, but opponents said his latest positions show he has no vision for ending the 28 months of deadly violence.
The emerging plan, known as the "road map," was formulated in recent weeks by the so-called Quartet of mediators: the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
It does not explicitly call for a change in the Palestinian leadership, as President Bush did in a speech last June when he outlined a vision for a Palestinian state by 2005. Nevertheless, the United States seems to support the road map, and it is to be formally adopted next month.
At a news conference, Mr. Sharon did not directly address the road map, saying only that he sees "eye to eye" with the United States.
"To the European side I said, 'Your attitude towards Israel and the Arabs and the Palestinians should be balanced,'" Mr. Sharon said. "When it will be balanced you are mostly welcome to participate. But at this moment the relations are unbalanced. [The Europeans] don't understand that in order to move things forward [Yasser] Arafat should be removed from any influential position."
The latest draft of the road map calls for an eventual freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip something Mr. Sharon will find difficult to implement if, as expected, he emerges as the leader of a narrow right-wing government after the election. The moderate Labor Party says it would not again join Mr. Sharon's government.
When asked about the road map in a weekend interview with Newsweek, Mr. Sharon was quoted as saying: "Oh, the Quartet is nothing. Don't take it seriously. There is [another] plan that will work."
He said if Mr. Arafat were removed and Palestinian militants crushed, Israel would recognize a provisional, demilitarized Palestinian state with temporary borders, and after prolonged calm, enter negotiations on a final peace deal.
Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said Mr. Sharon believed the Quartet's plan is "not realistic. There is nothing in that program that can be implemented."


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