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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 02, 2003

Strange things are happening

Aluf Benn writing in Ha'aretz under the title Sharon aims to advance agreements on June speech had this to say
The prime minister meanwhile received an invitation to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sent a congratulatory message to him on his election victory, as did the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Japan, Italy, Belgium and South Korea.

Diplomatic sources said yesterday that European capitals are rethinking their relationship with Sharon after his reelection, and that there is increasing understanding of the need "to face reality" and engage him in political dialogue.

France, which in the past led criticism of Israel in the EU, did not intervene in the elections, keeping Amram Mitzna, Sharon's opponent, at arm's length unlike Blair. French President Jacques Chirac sent a congratulatory message to Sharon.

Government sources in Jerusalem said the statement by eight European countries, supporting American policy in Iraq is a watershed, and will have an impact on the future of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The sources said that "it is possible that we'll also see Europe split with regard to us, as in the case of Iraq."

Europe is beginning to realize that the "road map" won't be implemented. The U.S. has acceded to Sharon's request to hear Israel's "remarks" on the plan, and to postpone its finalization until the new Israeli government is formed. The "road map," parts of which have been severely criticized by Israel, calls for a Palestinian state in provisional borders by the end of 2003, and a final status agreement by 2005.

Sharon has said he accepts the principles of the Bush speech, and will bring the plan described in it before the new government. According to his interpretation, the first stage relates to demands to be made of the Palestinians: a total cease-fire, comprehensive reforms, and removing Yasser Arafat from power. Only then will Israel make concessions and agree to a Palestinian state in provisional borders.

According to diplomatic sources, the Europeans will stick to their rhetorical commitment to the "road map," but will consider other scenarios, including:

* Direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials, similar to former foreign minister Shimon Peres' dialogue with Abu Ala, meaning there is no need for an imposed solution.

* A regional peace conference after the war in Iraq, along the lines of the 1991 Madrid conference, as proposed by Sharon in the past. It would be followed by direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

* A "soft departure" for Arafat, who would assume a ceremonial position. This is Sharon's main demand. Some Quartet members have proposed that Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad be named Palestinian prime minister.

* A security arrangement led by Egypt, according to the still-incomplete cease-fire plan under discussion among the Palestinian factions in Cairo. Israel will continue with supportive actions, to enable implementation. Sharon is going to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after the new government is formed to discuss the political proces in the region.
It is entirely possible that the EU will divide as this article suggests on the Palestinian support. I believe it will even go further and you will see EU even go so far as to withdraw their support of Arafat and the Palestinian question. We all know that its position has nothing to do with facts, law and agreements but with self interest. As America defeats Iraq and proceeds to change Syria and on and on , the EU may decide that nothing is to be accomplished by supporting the losing cause. Hell if the Arabs are going to side with America, who is France and Germany to be in opposition. Hang on to your seats.