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      Cabinet Decision Bends Before American Dictates

      Deputy Defense Minister Boim said today that Israel is following the American demand to carry out its Road Map obligations even when the Palestinian Authority does not - despite the Cabinet decision of May 2003 that determines otherwise.
      First Publish: 1/6/2004, 3:49 PM / Last Update: 1/6/2004, 4:55 PM

      Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim of the Likud said today that Israel is following the American demand to carry out its Road Map obligations even if the Palestinian Authority does not - despite the Cabinet decision of May 2003 that determines that this need not be the case.

      The interview came in the wake of last night's Likud Party Convention in Tel Aviv, where Prime Minister Ariel Sharon essentially told the Central Committee members that he intends to leave them out of the diplomatic and political decision-making processes. Sharon was booed when he mentioned his plans to uproot Jewish communities and establish a Palestinian state, but was applauded on other occasions.

      Deputy Defense Minister Boim explained to Arutz-7's Haggai Segal that Sharon made the statements in the knowledge that he has the ultimate responsibility, as both the head of the party and the Prime Minister, for directing Israel's policies. Segal asked, "But does he not have at least a minimal obligation to the Likud Party platform, which negates the formation of a Palestinian state?"

      Boim answered, "We must at least be aware that Sharon has stated his position in this issue several times, including before both of the last two elections [won by Sharon], and the Likud chose him as its leader. So his position on this matter is not surprising."

      Segal: "Well, what is surprising is his position on unilateral withdrawals. What's the logic of demanding that the PA fight terrorism, and then 'threatening' to give away territory even if they don't do so?"

      Boim: "Yes, this is something new. Sharon speaks of this as a no-choice option, while Olmert seems to actually want it. In any event, my own opinion is that for Sharon, the Road Map is the preferred option... I believe that only if it becomes absolutely evident that the Road Map cannot proceed, and that the PA is not doing anything against terrorism, should we proceed very cautiously with a unilateral step - and only with international consensus. I think the Prime Minister wants to get the Palestinians to wake up, move Arafat aside, and get started on a process."

      Segal: "Why is the government taking action against the outposts, when the PA has not kept its part of the bargain and is not fighting terrorism?"

      Boim: "For two reasons. One is that previous governments already started dealing with the unauthorized outposts --"

      Segal: "Those were left-wing governments, which don't like the Yesha settlement enterprise. But now we're talking about Arik Sharon, the man who sent the residents to 'take over the hilltops!'" [A reference to Sharon's call in early 1999, when he was Foreign Minister under Binyamin Netanyahu, to "run and take over the hilltops! Whatever is in our hands will be ours, and whatever's not, will not!"]

      Boim: "True, but we are making a clear differentiation not only between regular communities and outposts, but also between those that were established before March 2001 and afterwards, as we agreed with the Americans. If we had gone back further in time, we would find that not even all of those are regulated. The Americans said clearly that within the first phase of the Road Map, the sides were to fulfill their commitments in parallel, with our obligations not dependent on whether the PA fulfilled its obligations. So we have to do this in order to fulfill our commitment to the Americans."

      ***Arutz-7's Hillel Fendel notes, however, that the Israeli Cabinet version of the Road Map says precisely the opposite. In late May 2003, when the Cabinet dramatically approved the Road Map, it added on 14 reservations, resolving that they are intrinsic to Israel's acceptance of the plan. The Prime Minister called them "red lines beyond which we cannot and will not withdraw." The reservations state that "there must be no terrorism during the process," that the PA must "dismantle the existing security organizations," and that "full performance will be a condition for progress between phases and for progress within phases."

      Boim then continued with the second reason why the government is uprooting unauthorized outposts: "It is important for us, as well, as a law-abiding country, to implement the law in every place--"

      Segal here interrupted, saying, "In every place? So why is it not enforcing the law against the rampant illegal Arab construction? The government appears to be acting very arbitrarily and selectively in enforcing the law only against Jewish-owned caravans on some isolated hilltop."

      Boim said, "As the rabbi says to the Kuzari [in Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy's classic medieval work], you have uncovered our shame. There is truly no justification for the fact that all Israeli governments have ignored the illegal Bedouin expansion in the Negev. But this is not a reason not to enforce the law against the outposts. I would just like to add that the government has been taking some measures of late against illegal Arab construction in Yesha..."

      Segal: "Why did the government not agree to the proposal for a compromise in Ginot Aryeh in Ofrah? The residents agreed to remove the caravans to Ofrah, and the army was very much in favor, and Sharon and Mofaz didn't agree. Is it true that which the residents say, that the government simply wants to clash with them in order to show the Americans?"

      In this connection, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said today that he has information according to which the police have been briefed to remove their name tags so that they cannot be identified, and initiate clashes with the residents - all in order that scenes of settlers fighting with policemen be shown across the world and thus de-legitimize them.

      Boim responded that in his opinion, the reason that Sharon refused the compromise is because he wants to fulfill the letter of the agreement with the Americans, which calls for a total removal of the outposts.