Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bush's UN speech goes easy on Palestinians, tough on Israel

In what could be interpreted as a sharp rejection of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's 'unilateral disengagement' plan and a slap at Israel and its leader, President George W. Bush on Tuesday said that the Jewish State must avoid 'unilateral actions that prejudice final negotiations.' He also accused Israel of 'daily humiliations' of the Palestinians. There were no positive statements about Israeli policies.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly at its opening session, Bush mildly encouraged Palestinians to adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people. Bush said nothing about the need for Palestinians to fight terrorism or any other concrete step.

Without naming names, he suggested that 'world leaders should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.'

Bush was much tougher on Sharon's government. 'Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations.'

Coming at a time when Sharon is encountering great domestic resistance on his unilateral plans, the President's remarks may send a message that the Americans are growing increasingly nervous at a one-sided Israeli move that might bring sudden chaos in its wake.

Sharon has argued to the Israeli public that retreating from Gaza would enable Israel, with the support of the United States, to maintain large settlement blocs and enable them to grow naturally. He has argued that a unilateral pullout would encourage American flexibility on other issues. Bush's speech did not support Sharon's argument. "