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December 06, 2002

Sharon breaks with political allies, backs 'Bush formula'

HERZLIYA, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has endorsed the U.S. plan for an interim Palestinian state. The so-called "roadmap," sets a timetable for an interim Palestinian state in 2003 and a country with permanent borders in 2005.

Sharon said he will obtain formal approval for the plan drafted by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia should he win parliamentary elections on Jan. 28.

It was the first time he has publicly detailed his views on the plan which differ significantly from those of the Palestinian Authority and are opposed by his own political allies in the current government, Middle East Newsline reported

"It is a logical, wise plan that can be implemented," Sharon said. "We accepted in principle the Bush formula. Israel will not return to control territories from which we withdrew in political settlements."

Sharon said the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and be ruled by a democratic regime. He said this would involve the removal of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat from decision-making and Palestinian elections.

At the same time, Sharon said, the Palestinians would be forced to dismantle what the prime minister termed all of their security organizations. They would be replaced by two or three new agencies, which will be comprised of a police force and security bodies and cooperate with Israel. Sharon said terrorism would be outlawed and a new Palestinian interior minister would be responsible for collecting illegal weapons and transferring them to a third party. At that point, the weapons would be removed from Palestinian areas and destroyed.

After this process, Sharon said, an interim Palestinian state will be completed and contain at least 40 percent of the West Bank. He said Israel would control passages to the Palestinian state as well as control its air space. The new Palestinian state will not be allowed to form alliances with Israel's enemies.

"No progress will be made from one phase to the next until such time as quiet has been restored, Palestinian rule has undergone fundamental changes, and coexistence is ensured," Sharon said.

In the first stage, Israel will agree to contiguity between areas within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Israel will not allow contiguity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Sharon's vision differed sharply with those of his allies in his current right-wing government. National Infrastructure Minister Effie Eitam said, head of the National Religious Party, said Israel would quickly lose all control of the process of establishing a Palestinian state. He expressed skepticism whether Israel could ensure that a Palestinian state would be demilitarized or democratic.

"The minute that Israel utters the word 'Palestinian state' the international community and the Palestinians will understand that the conflict has been decided." Eitam said. "He [Sharon] is saying that historically and strategically you have won."