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Analyst David Essing: ‘Snapshot Of Blair Visit Reveals More Of The Big Picture’

Sharon & Blair

Where does Tony Blair’s visit and the reactions of Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian leaders reveal about where things are headed in the post-Arafat era? The endgame of the current international drive is the establishing of an independent Palestinian state. The foreign leaders, coming on their political pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian Authority after Arafat’s death, are coming with the message of ‘Carpe Diem’ - Seize the Day!’ Make no mistake, the U.S. mired in the quicksand of Iraq, is also on board. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is now perceived as a must for a united stand against the global war against terrorism. And it is against this backdrop that U.S. President George W. Bush has spoken about the need for a Palestinian state in the Palestinian areas if peace is to reign in the region.

At this point in time, Ariel Sharon’s disengagement or withdrawal plan is now on the table. Although steadfastly refusing to negotiate under fire, Israel’s Prime Minister has decided to evacuate the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements under fire. Whatever Sharon’s reasons for evacuating, it is being perceived as the first step toward further withdrawal and the establishment of the Palestinian state.In Jerusalem and Ramallah, Tony Blair made clear the goal of his upcoming international meeting is to provide a ‘London Bridge’ from Sharon’s partial withdrawal leading into the Roadmap process for a Palestinian state. This bridge must overcome the ongoing Palestinian terrorism. Sharon demands that it must halt, period. Blair agrees: no question about it and he conveys that message to the Palestinians. Muhmoud Abbas and Ahmed Queira need no convincing, but can they deliver the goods? Here’s where the ‘London Bridge’ comes in; it can be expected to try and present the Palestinian people with the financial aid and support to dramatically improve their lot. However, the Palestinians will have to give up the terrorism, otherwise its no deal. This is the Blair formula for reaching the final destination of the Roadmap.

Blair In Ramallah (CNN)

Sharon: No Short-Cuts! At the joint news conference, the Prime Minister said he would have expected Messrs. Abbas & Queira to have ‘at least’ have done something about the current Gaza escalation in mortar and Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli targets. But he took into consideration the January 9th election. However, Sharon also noted that Muhmoud Abbas and Ahmed Queira now have, and will have, no less than 30,000-armed Palestinian security personnel in the Gaza Strip. In other words, after the election there can be no excuses for starting to crack down on the rocket attacks.

Secondly, Sharon spoke about being ready to negotiate EVERYTHING in the Roadmap and in ‘SEQUENCE’. If, the Israeli PM is talking about ‘everything’ does it not follow that his Palestinian counter-part must be ready to do act likewise? Now that ‘everything’ in phase one of the Roadmap not only refers to an end to terrorism and incitement, but also the dismantling of the terror organizations. Thus, Sharon can be expected to reject any ‘hudna’ truce among the Palestinians and demand an end to the threat of any future terrorism by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the others if they are left armed and in tact. The biggest blunder in Israel’s handling of the Oslo process was to continue making concrete concessions to Arafat who simply pocketed them and unleashed the terrorists when he was forced to keep his part of the bargain. Sources close to Sharon say there will be no replay of this scenario and no ‘recycling of Oslo’.

SEQUENCE - Sharon insists this means only after one phase is fully completed will Israel and the Palestinians move on to the next. In other words, no advancing on the Roadmap until the weapons of the terrorists are proscribed such as in Northern Ireland and their organizations dismantled.

Although Blair and Sharon see eye to eye at this point, what happens when, for example, the Palestinians halt the violence but leave the terror groups in place? Will there be pressure on Sharon to accept this as being sufficient under the circumstances? Palestinian officials have always rejected the possibility they could, or would ever risk a civil war. On this score, Sharon can reply that he is; so must they.

David Essing

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