Sharon to outline go-it-alone Mideast vision
( 2003-12-18 08:57) (Agencies)
Sharon's keynote speech at an annual security conference will be watched by Washington, the main patron of a "road map" to Middle East coexistence battered by Palestinian militant attacks, Israeli military crackdowns, and mutual recrimination.
"The prime minister will reiterate his commitment to seeing the road map through and his willingness to take unilateral steps should the Palestinians not make implementation possible," a Sharon confidant said of the address scheduled for 12:45 p.m. EST.
The Palestinians accuse Sharon of foot-dragging on the plan, which calls for their independence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by 2005, alongside a secure Jewish state.
They have welcomed Sharon's recent hints at evacuating an unspecified number of Jewish settlements in the territories, but not the likelihood this would be part of a selective pullback leaving them with a shrunken, chopped-up state inside a barrier of wire and concrete that has been internationally condemned.
A fragile respite from more than three years' violence has ripened expectations of a diplomatic breakthrough.
But it may prove illusory. On Wednesday, Palestinian militant groups -- many of them sworn to Israel's destruction -- rebuffed a second attempt this month by Egyptian mediators to broker a cease-fire. Hours later, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian youth during a clash with Gaza gunmen.
Ex-General Sharon long championed Jewish settlements as necessary for Israel's security, and his apparent turnaround has thrown would-be successors from his Likud party into disarray.
Sharon has so far been vague about his vision. Israeli media and political pundits said it would involve evacuating at least five smallish settlements while keeping large tracts of occupied land until an unspecified later date.
Political analysts see the "Sharon Plan" as a revolution in a Likud ideology traditionally for keeping all of the territory captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war.
Two Likud cabinet members have made proposals in a similar vein to Sharon's. Yet Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, also from the hawkish party, came out against such moves on Wednesday.
"I am opposed to one-sided steps with political significance ...because they give a prize to terrorism," Shalom told the conference in coastal Herzliya, referring to suicide bombings in a Palestinian uprising that have killed hundreds of Israelis.
As what it calls a precaution against future attacks in the absence of a Palestinian crackdown on militants as required by the road map, Israel is erecting a vast West Bank barrier due to loop around settlement enclaves. The Palestinians call it a land-grab prejudging borders that should be negotiated.
Even Israel's staunchest ally the United States has voiced misgivings over the project and further unilateralism by Sharon.
"We don't consider this to be a viable solution that would add to the security of Israel," a U.S. official said.
The Sharon confidant moved to calm Washington's jitters: "There will not be any major surprises for the Americans." Palestinian officials declined comment ahead of Sharon's speech.
|.contact us |.about us|
|Copyright By chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved|