Skip to comments.A dangerous partner (Sharon)
Posted on 10/10/2002 6:44:45 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - The second and superfluous siege by the Israel Defense Forces on the Muqata - the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in Ramallah - expedited the invitation extended to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to visit Washington. Apprehensive of more Israeli surprises of this nature in the future, the administration changed its timetable. The Americans are usually not unduly upset by Israel's military operations against Palestinian terrorism. The fact is that they said nothing during the period of the siege of the Muqata when the head of the Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter, was in Washington and reported in detail to a number of ranking administration officials about the attempted assassination of Hamas bomb builder Mohammed Def. The Americans effectively accepted Dichter's remarks.
However, they were highly displeased by the slow Israeli response to their request to lift the siege. The first request was made by U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, who visited Sharon's ranch on Shabbat for this purpose. Then the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Danny Ayalon, was summoned to the Pentagon for a conversation on the same subject. The Americans were very surprised when Sharon sent his bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, to Washington to deliver a message that Israel was ready to withdraw from the Muqata but sought more time so that the Americans could conduct negotiations on behalf of Israel with the aim of resolving the issue in the same way as the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, earlier this year, when several wanted individuals were sent into exile abroad. Washington was flabbergasted at this: President Bush decided to ignore Arafat as a leader, and now you, the Israelis, want us to negotiate with him?
If the request made by the American friend was important to Israel, as officials in the prime minister's bureau explained, why did it take a week before Israel acceded to it? Senior Israel Defense Forces officers who were recently in Washington admitted to their interlocutors that the second siege of the Muqata was wrong from the word go and that now a new leaf should be turned.
The conclusion in Washington is that Sharon is indeed a partner of the United States, but a dangerous partner who has to be watched carefully at all times. He has changed in various ways over the years, but that old demon is still in him and every so often it leaps out. The demon has to be kept bottled up, the Americans say.
The talks with Sharon in his forthcoming visit to Washington are slated to focus on the Iraqi issue. The Americans will try to lay down "red lines" for Israeli behavior in a number of possible scenarios. It is hard to know whether President Bush thinks Israel crossed a red line of this kind in the Muqata crisis. On the agenda will be questions such as how to prevent a situation in which Israel loses control in the wake of an Iraqi attack or acts of provocation by Palestinian terrorists, and how to ensure that Israel does not use the fog of war to carry out military operations of its own against the Palestinians or in Lebanon - a possible case in point is the water crisis relating to the Wazzani River pumping project in southern Lebanon.
This is also an important visit for Israel. Coordination with the United States ahead of a possible war is essential. Israel, too, has some important questions to ask. For example, in the wake of an Iraqi attack on Israel using weapons of mass destruction - chemical or biological - will Israel have to obtain an American okay in order to retaliate militarily, or will consultation be sufficient, even though the response is not automatic? Such coordination will undoubtedly require further talks between the senior professional levels, after the Sharon visit and the meeting between the two leaders.
If you reverse "Israel" and "America" in this article you will see how asinine this editorial is.