The United States has changed sides in the main issue currently dividing Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators, and now backs the P.A.'s position. Such is the bottom line of a New York Times report of yesterday - and Secretary of State Powell has confirmed much of it.
Bush Administration officials now feel that the PA need not dismantle militant groups immediately, according to the Times report, and instead accept the hudna cease-fire as a valid alternative. Israel has long insisted that the hudna is merely a cover for the terrorists to re-arm, re-organize, and prepare to resume the violence when it suits them.
The Times reports that the American officials feel that the PA's security forces are simply too weak to efficiently crack down on the terrorists. The paper even quotes a "senior administration official" as having said that Israel, too, feels that "the cease-fire is a good idea" and is no longer skeptical.
Atty. Dov Weisglass, Sharon's top aide, said that the report must be treated with "a great deal of skepticism," and that "it's not reasonable that Israel would learn of such a change in the Administration's thinking via the media." The Times, however, reports that "the administration's thinking on the issue of the cease-fire was discussed this week when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel met with President Bush at the White House, and last week during a visit by Mr. Abbas."
Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman notes that the demand for the PA to fight terrorism is not a private initiative of Bush's given to his individual whims - but rather a clear-cut and central clause in the Road Map agreement.
During the three months that the hudna is supposed to last, the U.S. plans to "speed as much as $300 million in aid for the Palestinian Authority, channeled through the Central Intelligence Agency, to replace everything from jails to communication equipment to vehicles destroyed in the last two years by Israeli armed forces," according to the Times article.