Sharon tells U.S. Jews: Israel will never negotiate over J'lem
NEW YORK - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is due to tell the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at its annual policy conference today that Israel will proceed with the disengagement plan on schedule, no matter the circumstances.
Sharon will also praise Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for his strategic decision to condemn terrorism and violence. Sharon will say that Abbas' practice of reaching agreements with the terrorist organizations is mistaken and will produce the opposite of what Abbas wants to achieve. Sharon will also tell the convention that Israel is working to ease the plight of Palestinians, fulfilling its commitments from the Sharm el-Sheikh conference.
Yesterday, the second day of his visit to New York, Sharon continued to meet with Jewish leaders, senior officials at City Hall and personal friends.
On Sunday, Jewish millionaire Sam Domb hosted a dinner for the prime minister at his home, attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayor Ed Koch. Sharon appeared to be relaxed and enjoying his time with political supporters, without the pressures of political meetings.
Asked yesterday by Israel Bonds leaders if the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank would be described by Palestinians as a victory, Sharon replied, "So what if they say so? What is important are the facts and not what they will say. On our side also there are people who say things they should not. So what? Does it make the Jews any weaker?"
Sharon said that his government "will not negotiate Jerusalem" and will not make any concessions over "the Israeli capital, which is united and indivisible for eternity." He added that previous governments had agreed to Palestinian soldiers guarding the walls of the capital, "but those times are behind us. It will not happen."
In all the meetings with U.S. Jewish leaders, Sharon reiterated the same messages: The disengagement plan would go ahead and Israel would take steps to ensure the pullout does not take place under fire; disengagement is good for Israel; and every effort must be made to advance peace, but carefully.
Following his address to AIPAC, Sharon will meet with Evangelical leaders and then fly home. His adviser Dov Weissglas is due in Washington today for consultations with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Steve Hadley. They are to discuss Abbas' upcoming visit to Washington. Weissglas is also expected to discuss the steps taken by Israel to strengthen Abbas' political position and request that the administration refrain from making far-reaching gestures to the Palestinians.
Weissglas will tell the officials that if the U.S. takes steps to support the Palestinians on the eve of the pullout it could make it more difficult for Sharon to implement his disengagement plan.