New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has taken issue with the Bush administration’s Secretary of State Rice’s pressure on Israel to throw the 9,000 Jews out of Gaza, transfer them, and give the land over to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
In a press conference Secretary of State Rice gave at Ben-Gurion airport, she said, “Our hope is that whatever happens that there will be no delay in the disengagement plan and the withdrawal from Gaza because the United States has made very clear that we believe very strongly that this is a very positive step, and that any discussion that the United States has had, assurances that we have given and talked about are in the context of that withdrawal.”
(Those assurances included US opposition to the Palestinian claim for the right of refugees to return to pre-1967 Israel; as well as an appreciation that there were “new realities in the ground” and therefore it is unrealistic to expect a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.) (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 10, 2005)
ZOA President Morton A. Klein said, “This is a deeply troubling statement especially from a Bush administration that has been called “the best friend Israel ever had.” We were also troubled to learn that Secretary Rice brought a paper with her written by representatives of Jim Baker’s Mideast Institute at Rice University. Jim Baker is a close friend of the Bush family and was always very hostile to Israel. Not surprisingly the recommendations by his Institute to Rice were biased against Israel.
When Israel’s ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon, was asked what the U.S. wanted Israel to do now, he replied, “they want us to complete the Gaza disengagement [evacuation] now In my view I don’t think anything that will postpone, or interfere, with the timetable or orderly manner of carrying out the Gaza disengagement would be viewed favorably in Washington the US has stressed repeatedly in all their meetings in Jerusalem, and said it publicly, that the timetable should be kept, and it is important to carry out the Gaza disengagement according to schedule and without any obstacles.”
ZOA President Klein added, “The US should be allowing Israel, its only democratic ally in the Middle East, to make its own decisions and its own timetable regarding holy Jewish land and security. A truncated and weaker Israel will only harm US interests in the Mideast. President Bush must also understand the danger of rewarding the terror that has been perpetrated by the PA for over 11 years. The PA has not been a US ally and has produced a continual stream of anti-American propaganda and has not arrested a single Palestinian Arab killer of 52 American citizens. We call on President Bush to stop all pressure on Israel, and put the pressure on Abbas and the PA where it belongs.