Rapport between Bush, Sharon masks differences on key issues.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
West Bank, might similarly be considered untenable
Israeli development on Palestinian land.
said. "But with the fence stopping the suicide
bombers, it won't be so easy for them to do so."
The second possible flashpoint in Israel-United
States relations is the question of a settlement freeze
and the dismantling of unauthorized Israeli settle-
ment outposts — often a mobile home or two on a
hilltop not far from an existing settlement. Again,
the problem is the president's fear that settlement
expansion could compromise the chances of creating
a viable Palestinian state.
The administration fears that unauthorized outposts
will be joined to existing settlements, taking in swaths
of land Palestinians claim as their own. Israeli officials
counter that that's simply not on the
agenda, noting that 22 such outposts
have already been dismantled and
that 12 more will be taken down
over the next few weeks.
Still, there could be problems.
The Americans insist on a building
freeze even in existing, full-fledged
settlements, while Israel says it must
be allowed to accommodate natural
population growth in existing set-
tlements — though the road map
peace plan clearly prohibits that
type of expansion as well.
In Israel's view, in any case, the key
to the success of the diplomatic
process isn't the fence or the settle-
ments but whether or not the
Palestinians disarm the terrorist mili-
tias, as called for under the road map.
he way top Israeli officials tell it, ties
No decision has been made yet on the loan-reduc-
between Jerusalem and Washington have
tion proposal. Israeli officials, however, believe the
never been better. They point to the
Americans wanted to broach the idea to pressure
relaxed camaraderie of Prime Minister
Israel into building the rest of the fence more or less
Ariel Sharon's late July meeting with President
along the Green Line, the boundary that divides
George W. Bush at the White House, which they
Israel proper from the West Bank, captured from
describe as their best ever. "The two leaders are on
Jordan in 1967.
the same wavelength on all the big issues," a close
Israel, it seems, is ready to comply. One of the
Sharon aide said.
For all the upbeat talk, however,
the Sharon-Bush meeting revealed at
least three major issues on which
Israel and the United States are
divided and could clash further
down the road:
• Construction of the Israeli secu-
rity fence, which Bush called "a
problem," and over which his
administration is threatening to cut
promised loan guarantees to Israel;
• The concept of a settlement
freeze, which Israel and the United
States interpret differently; and
• The timetable for the Palestinian
Authority to dismantle terrorist
According to Israeli officials,
Bush's unease over the security fence
stems from a fear that it could com-
promise his vision of Israeli and
Palestinian states living side by side
in peace. For the vision to become a
P.A. Prime Minister Mahmoud
workable reality, the Palestinian
Abbas and his security chief,
President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon walk through the Rose Garden
state, in Bush's view, "must be
Mohammed Dah.lan, say there's no
colonnade after their joint news conference on July 29.
viable." A fence cutting into
need to confront groups like Hamas
Palestinian territory and disrupting
and Islamic Jihad as long as they are
territorial contiguity could destroy
maintaining the temporary cease-
that viability, Bush believes.
fire, or hudna, that they declared at the end of June.
options for the fence was to go around the city of
In their meeting, Bush urged Sharon to look at
Taking on the terrorists now, they argue, would
Ariel, Israel's largest settlement in the West Bank,
"the big picture," and not to build the fence in such
spark a Palestinian civil war.
some eight miles from the Green Line. That would
a way that it prevents a viable Palestinian state.
They say they prefer to wait until the Palestinian
have meant cutting deeply into West Bank territory
A few days later, Secretary of State Colin Powell
gets used to peace and quiet and rejects
declared that what worried him and the president
like Hamas, whose ideology would lead them
was the fence "producing faits accomplis with
violence and suffering.
respect to what a state might look like" — that is to
Israel says the groups are using the cease-fire to re-
The rest of the fence, another 100 miles to the
say, that Israel was moving unilaterally to determine
arm for future confrontations, and that allowing the
south, probably will run very close to the Green
a border of a future Palestinian state.
groups to flourish — even if they're not carrying out
Then State Department officials leaked news of a
attacks right now — is like keeping a loaded gun to
contingency proposal to reduce the $9 billion in
Israel's head, one that surely will be fired sooner or
loan guarantees promised to Israel for every dollar
spent on the fence where it veers into the West
The Israelis argue that Abbas and Dahlan easily
Bank. It long has been American policy to cut aid to
could dismantle the groups right now: The
decade of negotiations. "The Palestinians thought
Israel for its non-security expenditures on settle-
Palestinian Authority has 20,000 men under arms in
ments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the State they would come to negotiate now, and if it doesn't
Gaza and 30,000 on the West Bank, whereas the
work out, simply go back to terror," one official
Department view, the fence, where it cuts into the
Paul Morse/Wh i te H ouse