Bush Tells Press: Israel Must Withdraw from Settlements
A slip of the tongue? US President Bush said yesterday that Israel must remove the Jewish communities in Yesha. "Clarification" issued later.
Bush made the statement at a press conference with Jordan's King Hussein at his side. He had warm words for Abu Mazen, saying the PA Chief "wants to develop a state that will live in peace alongside Israel," and acknowledging that the PA needs armed forces and training to "defeat the terrorists who wish to stop the march to freedom."
Bush called on Israel to “sacrifice, meaning that Israel must withdraw from the settlements; there must be contiguous territory for a Palestinian state – into which a Palestinian state can grow.”
About an hour afterwards, White House spokesman Scott McClellan clarified the apparent mistake. "What the president was referring to," McClellan said, "was the withdrawal plan that is being pursued by Prime Minister Sharon as well as the unauthorized outposts which the Roadmap calls for Israel to remove."
Bush's statement flies in the face of the famous letter he sent Sharon almost a year ago, in which he wrote, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949..." Sharon publicized this as an American promise that Israel would get to keep five large settlement blocs, though the letter mentions no such thing.
Bush has made no secret of his vision of dividing the Land of Israel west of the Jordan River into two states - Israel and a 23rd Arab state. Prime Minister Sharon agrees, and there have been signs that the current disengagement plan involving the expulsion of all Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria is only the first step of a program that could encompass tens of thousands of Jews living in dozens of towns and communities throughout Judea and Samaria.
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has hinted repeatedly at the government’s true intentions by actually referring to the Gaza expulsion as the first phase of a broader initiative to comply with Bush’s roadmap for establishing a Palestinian state.
The controversial Sasson report and the soon-to-be-released Spiegel report, damning the settlement drive as an illegal effort driven by uncontrolled government clerks usurping state authority, were designed, according to some opinions, to whip up public antagonism toward Yesha communities and provide a legal basis for tearing them down.