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Analyst David Essing: 'The Bush - Sharon Summit Was Maintenance Stop On Way To The Roadmap'

'Bush Rapped Sharon's Knuckles Over Maale Adumim While Also Calling On Palestinian President Abbas To Step On The Gas'

'Maariv' and 'Haaretz' Front Page

There were few surprises at the Crawford summit. Although Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to disagree over settlement building, the American leader stood by his commitments of last April about no Israeli return to the armistice lines of 1949 (1967). In addition, 'changes on the ground, including existing major population centers, must be taken into account in any final status negotiations'. Moreover, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must 'stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure'. But of no less importance, was the Israeli - U.S. discussion of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

At Crawford, George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon agreed to disagree about Israeli settlement building. But at their news conference, President Bush repeatedly prodded the absent partner - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to ‘seize the day!’

Ariel Sharon went to the Bush ranch as a good friend. It was a high-level ‘maintenance stop’ on the U.S. drive to start implementing the Roadmap peace process. Ironically, the flap over the Israeli announcement about constructing 3,500 housing units at Maale Adumim, provided an opportunity for the U.S. President to boost his ‘honest broker’ credibility with the Palestinians. By rapping Sharon’s knuckles in public, Bush has balanced his strong ‘April letter’ commitment to Israel. For his part, if Sharon believed that by withdrawing from Gaza and northern Samaria, he could now consolidate settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, he was mistaken. The Bush letter was apparently his only payback for that.

  • Absent partner - the Crawford summit was just as much about Mahmoud Abbas as it was about Ariel Sharon. Bush repeatedly called on the Palestinian President to take advantage of the new opportunity to establish a Palestinian state. Sharon insisted that the Roadmap calls for Abbas to first dismantle the terror organizations before returning to the table. The Bush ‘music’ was more like: ‘Let’s play it by ear’.
  • Iranian factor - the discussion of Iran’s nuclear weapons program may have been more important than ‘who said what’ about settlements at the summit. Sharon’s aide-de-camp, IDF Gen. Yoav Gallant presented a detailed picture of Israel’s take. The U.S. and Israel, Iran’s ‘Great and Little Satans’ apparently see eye to eye on the danger; both doubt prospects for the European effort. If this is a looming existential threat to the Jewish state, would its Prime Minister risk a rift with the U.S. over 3,500 housing units? And that is another reason, why Sharon left Crawford saying there had been no confrontation and he had a very friendly meeting. This, despite some of the headlines in the Israeli media about ‘at loggerheads’ and ‘confrontation’.
  • Follow-up - Bush is sending two top officials, Elliot Abrams and David Walsh, to the region next week to talk to Abbas and Sharon about how to shore-up the Palestinian administration. The U.S. President obviously had General Ward’s latest report on the massive terrorist shelling in Gaza; how the two officials will persuade Abbas to start taking charge of the terror organizations, which launch salvos of rockets and mortars, is a tall order. That will probably have to wait, until Commander in Chief Bush himself has a one on one chat with the Palestinian leader.
David Essing

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