What a crazy twist. Here's the PM of Israel warning his countryman that U.S. support for Israel is conditional and could end...and the U.S. say oh no, support for Israel is unconditional, and permanent.
CONTRARY TO CLAIMS, U.S. SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL NOT DEPENDENT ON WITHDRAWAL
Prime Minister Sharon's warning yesterday that the rejection of his disengagement plan by the Likud would jeopardize the American promises he recently received is not backed up by American officials - on more than one front.
On the one hand, American officials say that U.S. friendship with Israel is permanent and not dependent on a particular event. On the other hand, a State Department spokesperson says that some of the things Sharon views as "promises" are really nothing more than "suggestions" and "observations."
Prime Minister Sharon told the Knesset yesterday, "Whoever continues to object to the disengagement plan, let it be clear to him that he is taking upon himself the responsibility of canceling all the American commitments... If the plan is not approved, the agreement [with the Americans] is no longer valid..." Further implying that the American commitments will guarantee Israel's future, the Prime Minister said, "Whoever wants to prevent Israel from being flooded with [Arab] refugees; whoever wants to maintain large settlement blocs under our control forever... - whoever wants all this, must support the disengagement plan."
However, Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA asked Paul Patin, U.S. Embassy Spokesman in Tel Aviv, if it is true that America's commitments to Israel's survival are conditioned on Israel implementing the disengagement plan. Patin replied, "Our commitment to Israel is long standing and philosophical, as well as political, and is based on our shared values as well as our shared interests, and is unshakable."
On the other hand, a State Department official told IsraelNationalTV.com correspondent Shlomo Blass that the U.S. has not promised as much as Sharon seems to be implying. Blass asked, "Is it true that the U.S. supports Israel's position according to which Jewish settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion and Ariel, will remain under Israeli sovereignty in the final-status agreement?"
The State Department official said: "What we are saying, and this is the official White House position, is that any decision regarding the final demarcation of borders will have to be made by the parties themselves... The President said that it would not be realistic to *expect* [emphasis by the spokesperson] that the final-status agreement would include a full [Israeli] withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines... and that these issues would be solved by the sides, period."
President Bush himself said the same last week: "All final status issues must still be negotiated between the parties."
Blass then asked, "What of Bush's support, as expressed in his letter to Prime Minister Sharon, for the Israeli position that Arab refugees would not return to [pre-1967] Israel?"
The State Dept official said: "This is the same type of question. Basically the comments that were made on this issue were a suggestion. All options remain on the table. It was more like an observation."
Commentator Caroline Glick, writing in the Jerusalem Post today, sums up: "What this means, as Colin Powell and others have been keen to point out, is that although Bush did state that the US thinks it would be unrealistic to have the so-called Palestinian refugees overrun Israel in the framework of an agreement, Bush did not commit the US to preventing it from happening."
Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also warned today that if the plan is rejected, "there will be negative ramifications for Israel diplomatically, economically, and militarily." MK Gilad Erdan, one of the plan's leading opponents in the Likud, said, "Olmert has done us a favor. By issuing such groundless statements and warnings, he is reaffirming our sense that he and his team are beginning to panic."
The disengagement-from-Gaza plan calls for Israel to withdraw its forces and evacuate its 8,000 residents by the end of 2005, abandoning the area to the control of the Palestinian Authority with no reciprocal security commitments on the PA's part. The nearly 200,000 card-carrying members of the Likud will vote on the plan on May 2. Mr. Sharon originally said he would abide by the referendum's results - but yesterday, following well-publicized news of a drop in support for the plan, he said otherwise. Sharon told the Knesset that the referendum has "public/moral," rather than "legal," standing, and that in any event the only two bodies with the authority to approve and authorize the plan are the Cabinet and Knesset.
Arutz-7 - 23 April 2004