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Yediot Ahronot Newspaper: ‘American Ambassador Kurtzer Said There Is No U.S. Understanding That Israel Will Maintain Settlement Blocs On West Bank’

‘Sharon Government Will Fall After Gaza Withdrawal; Palestinians Will Then Launch New Wave Of Terrorism’

‘Iranians Should Understand That U.S. Will Launch Missile Strike Against Nuclear Sites Unless Tehran Halts Nuclear Weapons Program’

Ambassador Kurtzer: ‘Press Report Is Full Of Inaccuracies’

Ambassador Kurtzer

U.S. Ambassador has startled political circles in Israel and obviously elsewhere by his reported comments. At a closed lecture to Foreign Ministry trainees in Jerusalem, the Ambassador reportedly made some undiplomatic and candid remarks about a number of burning issues. The Yediot Ahronot newspaper today carries banner headlines with a detailed account with quotes from the Kurtzer lecture. The ambassador has issued a statement categorically denying the report which he says is full of many ‘inaccuracies’.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is now in the midst of a bitter campaign to win political and public support in Israel to carry out his highly controversial withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer. U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer’s closed lecture to Foreign Ministry trainees has now sparked a firestorm in Israel, just days before the Knesset is to vote on a national referendum on the disengagement and the new state budget. If Sharon loses these votes the withdrawal would be delayed or possibly cancelled. The Ambassador’s comments have seriously harmed the Prime Minister at a very crucial juncture. These are some of the comments attributed to Kurtzer:

  • There is no understanding between U.S. and Israel on West Bank settlement blocs remaining under Israeli control; nor is there American agreement that the route of Israel’s security fence will include Ariel and Maale Adumeem.
  • Some Israeli officials do not speak good enough English and misunderstand what American officials mean when they say ‘I understand’.
  • The Sharon government will fall after the disengagement, which Washington believes will be implemented. The Palestinians will then launch a new wave of terrorism in order to influence the outcome of the early Israeli election.
  • The Ambassador also referred to America’s approach to Iran’s nuclear weapons development. According to Yediot Ahronot: ‘The Iranians should get the message: The missiles (American) have not yet been launched; but this is not to say they will not be sent on their way in the future, if Tehran does not halt its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. and Israel see eye to eye on the danger that Iranian nuclear weapons pose to the world and mainly the Middle East. President Bush is trying to stiffen the European approach to Iran so that the Iranians understand they cannot deceive or ignore on what is expected of them. American will not join the Europeans’ policy of ‘carrots’ which they are offering for Iran’s cooperation’.

Reactions: Ambassador Kurtzer has categorically denied the Yediot Ahronot account of his comments. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Kurtzer said he planned on making his clear to Prime Minister Sharon later in the day: [Kurtzer – interview]

Ambassador Kurtzer’s comments, as quoted by Yediot Ahronot, have supplied ammunition to opponents ‘of Sharon’s withdrawal program. Likud MK Uzi Landau quips that the Ambassador exposed the truth and that Prime Minister Sharon has been trying to deceive the Israeli public. Landau went on to say that Kurtzer has vindicated the opponents to the withdrawal and he even quipped: ‘I wish to welcome the Ambassador to the ranks of the Likud rebels who rejects Sharon’s withdrawal plans!’ Landau also charges that it is also clear that lawyer Dov Weissglass, Sharon’s contact with the U.S. does not even speak good enough English and is not qualified to negotiate with Bush officials.

Whatever, Ambassador Kurtzer did or did not say in his closed lecture, the media leak could not have come at a worse time for Prime Minister Sharon who faces two crucial votes in the Knesset next week that could spell the fate of his government and the evacuation.Yediot Ahronot newspaper says it has a stenograph of the Kurtzer lecture.Footnote: An intriguing question is who leaked the story from inside the Foreign Ministry. The trainees obviously did not; nor would low-level officials leak such explosive material. It can only be assumed that the leak originated from the high, or highest level in the Foreign Ministry.

David Essing

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