[IMRA: First Prime Minister Sharon wasn't able to include some major
settlement blocs in the security fence in a cabinet decision the very day
the cabinet also approved disengagement because the "time wasn't yet ripe" -
this when Sharon justified the withdrawal by claiming that he was trading
the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria for those same settlement blocs. Now it
appears that the multi-billion shekel disengagement cost that Finance
Minister Netanyahu did not include in the State budget on the assumption
that Uncle Sam would pick up the tab will indeed be borne by the Israeli
taxpayers as Sharon declines to raise the issue with Washington because "the
time isn't ripe".
If the "time isn't ripe" now why should it be any "riper" in the future?]
PM's team weighs request for U.S. aid
By Aluf Benn Haaretz 3 April 2005
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will not request funding for the disengagement
plan during his upcoming visit to the United States. Political sources in
Jerusalem said over the weekend that the internal discussions regarding the
aid request have not been concluded, and the time is inappropriate for
broaching the issue.
Israel is interested in special American aid to pay for the relocation of
the army's Gaza Strip bases, for the development of the Negev and Galilee,
and for the improvement of Palestinians' "daily life," especially the
erection of modern checkpoints between Israel and the territories.
The government recently set up a team, headed by the director general of the
Finance Ministry, Joseph Bachar, to coordinate the aid request. Sharon will
meet with President George Bush a week from tomorrow at his ranch in
Crawford, Texas. The visit is an indication of the administration's support
of Sharon and his disengagement plan, on the eve of withdrawal from Gaza and
Next to visit after Sharon will be Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud
Abbas, making his first visit to the U.S. since he assumed office. Abbas has
been invited to the White House, and not to the president's ranch. Sharon
advisers Dov Weisglass and Shalom Turjeman leave for preparatory talks
today, and tomorrow will meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National
Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and his deputy, Elliott Abrams.
The Prime Minister's Bureau is deliberating over what to ask of the
president. The Israelis want Bush to repeat the promises he made to Sharon
in a letter last year, that the boundaries established in a final status
agreement will take into account "Israeli centers of population" in the
territories. Sharon is under political pressure to obtain a more explicit
clarification that the large settlement blocs in the West Bank will become
part of Israel in any future agreement. However, Sharon has not decided yet
whether the time is ripe for bringing up the issue of the settlement blocs.
Sharon will discuss with Bush the political outline that will follow
disengagement, the state of the PA and the Iranian nuclear threat.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who visited Washington last week, told his
hosts that there was a great discrepancy between Abbas' declarations and
deeds. Mofaz said that the PA has not dealt with wanted militants living in
the cities that have been handed over, and therefore Israel has frozen the
process. He also said the PA has failed to unify the divergent security
forces. Senior administration officials told Mofaz that Israel has
obligations also, reminding him of the dismantling of outposts.
The focus of Mofaz' visit to Washington was the dispute over Israel's arms
sales to China. The Pentagon is awaiting Israel's answers to a list of
hundreds of questions, which was given to the Defense Ministry. American
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke to Mofaz about the U.S.'s
concerns about the growth and improvement of the Chinese Army, and his
expectation that Israel not provide China with security equipment that could
pose a threat to the U.S.'s strategic advantage.