U.S.: After Iraq, we'll deal with other radical Mideast regimes
By Aluf Benn
Haaretz - 4 April 2003
A communique received in Jerusalem from the American administration
this week says the United States is operating with strong resolution
to neutralize the Iraqi threat to Israel. After the war, the message
continued, the United States will deal with other radical regimes in
the region - not necessarily by military means - to moderate their
activities and fight terrorism.
These current and future U.S. operations will also serve Israel, the
American administration says, but have caused tensions between the
United States and the Arab world. Israel, the American message says,
must play its part to help ease these tensions by taking action with
regard to settlements in the territories.
The message from Washington adds that the current U.S.
administration has no illusions about peace and a return to the
political process, merely a realistic view of how to manage the
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet on Sunday with Foreign
Minister Silvan Shalom, who returned yesterday from a visit to the
United States, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to discuss Israel's
position on the international "road map" for a resolution of the
conflict with the Palestinians.
The three will also discuss the recent U.S. communique, which speaks
of the importance of dealing with the settlements as a means of
bolstering U.S. standing in the region.
The heads of the U.S. administration chose not to raise the issue of
the settlements in their meetings with Shalom this week. Israeli
sources believe the Americans made an effort to ensure the success
of the foreign minister's first visit to Washington in his current
capacity with the purpose of creating a solid foundation for future
talks with him.
The principal issue discussed in Shalom's meetings in Washington was
the appointment of Abu Mazen as Palestinian Authority prime minister
and the importance of Israel taking steps to ensure his success in
the position. As is the case in Jerusalem, Washington is not
convinced of Abu Mazen's ability to take real powers out of PA
Chairman Yasser Arafat's hands. Nor does it know if Abu Mazen will
be able to impose his will on the elements of power and terror
organizations on the Palestinian side.
However, the Americans do expect that Israel will not get in his way
and will help Abu Mazen in any way that it can. They reminded Shalom
that Abu Mazen's appointment as prime minister suited the U.S.
strategy regarding a change in the Palestinian leadership.
Shalom's hosts - President George Bush, Vice-President Richard
Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Powell - did
not raise any specific demands for specific steps on the part of
Israel. These were passed on in advance of the visit via diplomatic
channels and included expectations for the removal of roadblocks and
checkpoints in the territories, entrance into Israel for Palestinian
workers, the accelerated release of Palestinian funds held by
Israel, the evacuation of illegal outposts and the toning down of
statements made by Israeli public figures.
The foreign minister reminded his American interlocutors that all of
Israel's past efforts to ease the humanitarian distress in the
territories had paved the way for more terror attacks. Shalom
stressed Israel's demand that the process be conducted in a
reciprocal manner, beginning with steps by the Palestinians to
prevent terror and implement government reforms. Thereafter, Shalom
told the Americans, Israel would play its part.
He made it clear that Israel was not prepared for a parallel process
of mutual steps. The Americans made an effort to convince Shalom
that the road map represented an opportunity for progress, sat well
with the interests of both the United States and Israel, and that
there was no cause to reopen the issue for discussion and amendment.
Political sources in Jerusalem said they had been encouraged by
Powell's speech to his European counterparts in Brussels yesterday
in which he said that the United States would do all in its power to
preserve the road map unchanged, but that everyone should understand
that the plan would be meaningless if it wasn't accepted by both