Israel, Palestinians, US Await Sharon's Policy Address

July 7, 2008 - 8:14 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israelis from across the political spectrum as well as Palestinians and officials in Washington were waiting for what is expected to be a major policy speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sharon recently said that if the Palestinians fail to implement their part of the road map, he would consider making unilateral moves to bolster Israel's security - including moving some settlements. He also said he would give details of the plan during a speech at the Herzliya Conference on Thursday evening.

According to media reports quoting unnamed sources, Sharon will likely emphasize that he is still committed to the road map but if the Palestinians do not fulfill their part of the plan within a certain amount of time, Israel will take unilateral steps. He is not expected to detail what the steps will be but he may give the Palestinians a deadline, reports said.

The threat of unilateral moves on Israel's part has troubled Washington, the Palestinians and many on the Israeli right, particularly those who support Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Despite the fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell has held meetings in recent weeks with Israeli and Palestinian initiators of alternative, non-governmental peace plans, Washington has said that it is still backing the road map peace plan, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.

Palestinians fear that unilateral moves on Israel's part would mean less land for them and a system whereby the Palestinian population is divided into cantons surrounded by Israeli roads and security.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said earlier that if Sharon wanted to do things such as remove settlements that was good but warned that other unilateral moves would only lead to increased terrorism.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom assured administration officials earlier this week that no unilateral moves had yet been decided on and that nothing would be done without first coordinating with Washington.

Shalom said on Wednesday that he opposed taking unilateral steps that would have political implications because doing so would be giving a "prize to terrorism" that would make Israel's position tougher in the future.

Minister Meir Shetreet asked on Thursday what benefit Israel would gain by withdrawing from the territory and continuing with the war.

"I am firmly opposed to a unilateral withdrawal," Sheetrit said at the Herzliya Conference where Sharon will speak tonight. "That is a virtual solution. We will give up territories and remain in a state of war. In a situation like this, it's better to make peace... We must sit down with them to political negotiations right now."

Settlements


The government has already said it is going to dismantle 16 of what it calls unauthorized outposts from the West Bank, a move called for by the road map.

The settlement of Migron is one of those slated for dismantlement, said Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, spokesman for the YESHA Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza.

"We don't agree," said Mor-Yosef. There are 43 families living there and the settlement had all the required permits from the government in order to be built, he said.

Migron, 10 minutes from Jerusalem, is four and a half years old. It has two permanent buildings - a synagogue and a pre-school.

Rabbis from the West Bank also issued a statement saying that it was forbidden for the government to give up the Biblical land. They called on people to come to Migron to protest against the planned evacuation.

Calling for the unilateral removal of settlements could have other consequences for Sharon. Coalition partners from the National Union party and the National Religious Party could both decide to leave the government if Sharon does so.