Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday voiced disappointment with the result of last Thursday’s meeting between President George Bush and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Washington.
“The Palestinians came out feeling no pressure to fight terror, and that they don’t have to take immediate action,” Sharon told members of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee visiting Jerusalem.
“The protest and objection to the disengagement in Israel is increasing, while public support for it is diminishing, because of the feeling that the terror is increasing, and that no action is being taken against it,” he said.
“Questions are being asked – what happened to Bush’s promises? – and people say the whole disengagement plan is a bluff. I need calm to carry out the disengagement, and this is causing me difficulties.”
Sharon said, “If I have to run for election while terror continues, obviously I wouldn’t be able to get the disengagement plan passed, and there is nobody else who can do it.”
Sharon told the congressmen that he had no complaints for Bush, who made his objection to terror clear to Abbas.
However, “the Palestinians understood that there is no serious pressure now to act against terror, and they can act slowly and carry out reforms. But democratic reforms cannot be a substitute for war on terror. They also understand that they can proceed with the understandings and agreements [with the terror organizations] and not fight them. The result is an increase of terror.”
A Jerusalem source said yesterday that Abbas got an extension to deal with the terror organizations until after the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The source said that Bush spoke out sharply against terror in the private conversation with Abbas and conveyed to him that after the elections, the PA would have to fulfill its commitments, including dismantling the terror organizations.
Sharon promised that the disengagement plan would be carried out in any case, on schedule, and that the evacuation would not be carried out under fire. “I don’t intend to stop the disengagement, but I will stop the fire,” he said.
Israel rejected the American administration’s suggestion to use U.S. Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. William Ward as a facilitator in security coordination of the disengagement.