In a meeting with American Jewish leaders in Washington, DC yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said several times that “We are in the pre-Road Map phase, we are not in the phase of the Road Map and there will be no compromise and the Road Map won’t start until there is full compliance by the Palestinian Authority (PA), until PA leader Mazen dismantles and disarms the terror group, ends all incitement, shows more cooperation between the Palestinian security force and the Israel security force, and starts educating the Arabs for peace.”
Sharon added that “the PA security organizations are really security terror organizations,” and strongly proclaimed “the main reason for the problems between the Arabs and Israel is that the Arab world does not recognize the right of Israel to have a Jewish state in the homeland and cradle of the Jewish people.”
The Prime Minister also said that “Palestinian leader Abu Mazen is not a friend of the Jewish presence in Israel; remember Mazen caused thousands of casualties of innocent Jews when he worked with Yassir Arafat. Since he’s become chief of the PA, he hasn’t arrested terrorists, stopped the arms smuggling or military industry or bomb factories. I must tell you that even the PA itself smuggles weapons. No serious steps have been taken by Mazen, and we can’t get to the Road Map plan until the PA fully implements their obligations. Even last night we captured Palestinian Arabs trying to smuggle 35 Kalishnikov rifles going from Gaza through the Negev to Judea and Samaria.”
Sharon commented about Egypt and Jordan saying, “we have a cool peace there, it is an agreement between leaders, the Egyptian and Jordanian people are against peace with Israel, the doctors and trade community and unions all boycott Israel, they also don’t accept Israel’s birthright to have a Jewish state. In both Egypt and Jordan, none of the maps show Israel.”
Sharon said that “Jerusalem will never be divided and Israel will not negotiate on Jerusalem. Since 1860 the Jewish population of Jerusalem was larger than the Christian and Muslim population combined.
ZOA’s Morton Klein asked the Prime Minister, “why is it that during your campaign for Prime Minister, you took a strong stand against withdrawal from the Jewish section of Gaza and the removal of its 9000 Jewish residents by telling your opponent that Netzarim, Gaza is as important as Tel Aviv — yet one year later, you were completely in favor of withdrawal and the transfer of Jews even though many prominent Israelis, including your Chief of the Israel Defense Forces, General Moshe Ya’alon believes ‘this Gaza withdrawal will blow up in our faces.’
In the year between your campaign and your decision to leave Gaza, what happened to make you change your mind?” The Prime Minister spent about 15 minutes answering. Some of what he said included the following, “First of all I understand that the Oslo agreements were the greatest disaster Israel ever had. But we cannot sit quietly and take no steps. The world won’t accept it, including the U.S. and the U.S. is under pressure from Europe to pressure us. We must be involved in a political process in order to defend ourselves politically. We are doing the Gaza withdrawal to save as much as possible strategic areas for Israel.”
Surprisingly, PM Sharon made no mention of any military or economic benefits of leaving Gaza. He also informed us that “Israel will leave properties intact in Gaza and the Jewish graves will be moved.” He repeatedly said, “that this is so difficult and so painful, and is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to take in my life.” He also strongly praised the Jews of Gaza as “wonderful people and the best people.”
When Klein followed up and asked, “Can you assure us that the security fence, which presently encompasses only 7% of Judea and Samaria, will not be the final political border, especially in light of the fact that there are 60,000 to 80,000 Jews on the wrong side of the fence, i.e. Beth El, Kedumim, Kiryat Arba, Shilo, Eli, Hebron and others,” Sharon replied, “ east of the fence the local communities have their own fences We’ll see what happens with the Road Map. The Road Map won’t start until there is full Arab compliance — and after they comply, we’ll discuss the final borders But I can tell you that the major Jewish population centers will always remain part of Israel ”
When asked about Iran, Sharon said, “Iran’s goal is to eliminate Israel, their leaders say it openly.”
PM Sharon also praised President Bush for his friendship with Israel, for good US/Israel relations and for Bush’s position on Palestinian refugees and Israel’s major population centers in Judea and Samaria. He also told us that his meetings with President Bush went very well.