[shniad at sfu.ca: [R-G] Security wall will be built, Sharon says]
ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Thu Jul 31 17:20:25 MDT 2003
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Globe and Mail July 30, 2003
Security wall will be built, Sharon says
Israeli PM ignores White House concerns, vows to 'minimize' effect on
By Paul Koring
Washington -- Brushing off U.S. President George W. Bush's view that a wall
winding through the West Bank is an obstacle to peace, Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon vowed yesterday to keep erecting the so-called
The "security fence will continue to be built," said Mr. Sharon, after talks
with Mr. Bush only four days after his counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, made the
first-ever high-level Palestinian visit to the Bush White House.
During Mr. Abbas's visit, the President bluntly called the security fence a
"problem," adding that "it is very difficult to develop confidence between
the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank."
Whether Mr. Bush pressed Mr. Sharon to suspend construction of the fence
during their private talks remains unclear, but Mr. Sharon offered the
President and the Palestinians very little in his public comments on the
He said Israel would make "every effort to minimize the infringement on the
daily life of the Palestinian population" but gave no specifics.
The barrier -- which is in places a concrete wall and in others a
combination of barbed wire and electrical fencing, abutted by a cleared zone
to provide open fields of fire -- is designed, the Israelis say, to thwart
infiltration by terrorists.
But many Palestinians believe it amounts to a land grab and an embryonic
boundary, jutting deep into the West Bank in places and cutting routes
between some Palestinian towns while encircling others.
Palestinians, who had reacted positively to Mr. Bush's tough talk about the
"wall" last Friday, were dismayed by his much softer tone and his reference
to it as a "fence" yesterday.
"There is a difference between Bush's position and Sharon's position about
the wall," Palestinian information minister Nabil Amr said. "I think that
President Bush made an effort about the wall, but Israel did not pay respect
Mr. Bush gave no hint that he had been rebuffed by the Israeli leader, who
he has repeatedly praised as "a man of peace" and who is making his eighth
visit in 2½ years to the White House.
"Look, the fence is a sensitive issue, I understand, and the Prime Minister
made it very clear to me that it was a sensitive issue," Mr. Bush said. "And
my promise to him is, 'We'll continue to discuss . . . how best to make sure
that the fence sends the right signal: that not only is security important,
but the ability for the Palestinians to live a normal life is important as
"I would hope, in the long term, the fence would be irrelevant," Mr. Bush
said, apparently indicating that -- at least in the short term -- his
administration won't press Israel to dismantle it or suspend its rapid and
continuing construction. The formidable barrier now snakes for more than 110
The two leaders barely mentioned the issue of settlements, also a major
sticking point in the U.S.-backed peace plan. The so-called road map
requires Israel to stop expanding in the nearly 150 long-established
settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and to dismantle outposts
established without government approval since early 2001.
"Unauthorized outposts will be removed as required in a law-abiding
country," Mr. Sharon said yesterday.
He hinted at unspecified further gestures if the current cessation of
violence continues and if Mr. Abbas makes good on his promise to crack down
on Palestinian militants. During Mr. Abbas's visit to Washington, the
Israeli government announced it would release some Palestinian prisoners and
withdraw from two more Palestinian towns.
"If calm prevails and we witness the dismantlement of terror organizations,
Israel will be able to take additional steps," Mr. Sharon said yesterday.
Mr. Bush also echoed his own demands that the Palestinian Authority
"dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."
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