Sharon: U.S. concerned over Gaza
Prime minister tells reporters in New York, ‘the Americans have expressed their concern regarding what is taking place in the Philadelphi route and regarding the fact that the Palestinians are crossing into Egyptian Rafah not only by foot, by car as well’; Regarding the West Bank settlement blocs Sharon said: Will Maale Adumim eventually be connected to Jerusalem? Yes. What worries the Americans is the possibility that the northern part of the West Bank will be separated from the southern part – but we will find a solution for this as well
The Bush administration is concerned over what will happen in Gaza, and this is what will determine the developments in the area, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters in New York.
“They (Americans) have expressed their concern regarding what is taking place in the Philadelphi route and regarding the fact that the Palestinians are crossing into Egyptian Rafah not only by foot, by car as well,” the prime minister said during the first day of his U.S. trip.
“Palestinian officers are standing by and doing nothing, and the Egyptians are standing on the other side, embarrassed. They were also shocked by this wave of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palestinians who crossed over,” he said.
“I suppose smugglers have also crossed over, so a lot of smuggling took place during these past two days. This is what troubles the Americans.”
According to Sharon, “If the Palestinians will not recover from what is going on in Gaza, the Americans will regard the continuation of the (diplomatic) process as doubtful.”
“The test case is Gaza. I assume the Americans are applying heavy pressure on the Egyptians and Palestinians so they will prevent incidents similar to those that are currently taking place there (Gaza),” he added.
The road map, which charts mutual steps leading to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, also calls on the Israeli government to halt settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
Sharon said that would not happen - and that (President George W.) Bush did not even raise the subject at their talks.
"We are building (in West Bank settlements). Does that make the Americans happy? No. Are there any steps against Israel? No, again," Sharon said.
'Egypt will see the light'
“Will Maale Adumim eventually be connected to Jerusalem? Yes. What worries the Americans is the possibility that the northern part of the West Bank will be separated from the southern part – but we will find a solution for this as well.”
Some 245,000 Jewish settlers live in West Bank enclaves isolated from 2.4 million Palestinians. The World Court regards the settlements as illegal. Israel disputes this.
Bush told Sharon he wishes to assist him without meddling in Israeli politics.
“During my meeting with Bush I asked him not to interfere in Israel’s internal political affairs; I said to him, ‘please don’t interfere; let me solve this on my own.’”
Sharon said Israel and the United States were concerned by uncontrolled Palestinian travel over Gaza's border with Egypt since Israeli troops left. The area is a major weapons smuggling route for Palestinian terrorists.
"I think there is a heavy U.S. pressure on the Egyptians and the Palestinians on this issue," Sharon said.
But the Israeli leader added: "I believe the Egyptians will see the light" and that "perhaps in a few days, they will block the passages."
'Netanyahu gave back 13 percent of territories'
As to Israel’s withdrawal from the Philadelphi route, which runs along the Gaza-Egypt border, the Sharon said, “I believe it was the right decision to get out of there. I suppose the Egyptians will gain control over the area, because in my opinion they were stunned by the Palestinians’ rush (into Egypt).”
“The Palestinians have not seen their relatives in many years, and they ran to see them. The smugglers took advantage of the situation to carry out their tasks,” he said.
Regarding remarks made by former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said Sharon gave up territories for international praise, the prime minister said, “This man of slogans gave back 13 percent of the territories.”
“He (Netanyahu) was a good finance minister. (Foreign Minister) Silvan Shalom was also a good finance minister, and many of the reforms began during his term,” he said.
Regarding Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian elections, Sharon said, “I have made it clear that we staunchly oppose Hamas’ participation in the elections as long as they do not disarm and do not annul their covenant, which is one of the most horrible documents.”
“I utilized recent statements made by Hamas leaders whereby the organization is planning to resume its terror activity, especially in Jerusalem.
“We cannot have any influence on whether Hamas takes part in the elections in Gaza, because we have no intention of returning there. But in other places, we will definitely not cooperate in anything that pertains to the elections,” he said.