The U.S. government is demanding that Israel coordinate its disengagement plan from the territories with the Palestinian Authority. The American administration is seeking to avoid any chaos that might emerge in the areas Israel quits, and to strengthen the connection between the evacuation of settlements and the road map.
Word from the White House and U.S. State Department reaching Jerusalem in recent days is emphasizing this point. At present, the U.S. is not demanding that Israel negotiate with the Palestinian government over the "security line" to which the army would withdraw in Gaza and the West Bank, and Israel could make these decisions unilaterally. But Washington expects the implementation to be coordinated in advance with the PA so the latter will be able to prepare to accept responsibility for the territory that is evacuated.
The U.S. administration is thus trying to prevent Hamas from taking over Gaza after Israel withdraws.
The U.S. also wants to present the disengagement as part of an overall process or arrangements, and not as a unilateral move of force by Israel like the separation fence. This would presumably soften international opposition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan.
The U.S. position is therefore aimed at "coordinated unilateralism." Dennis Ross, the former U.S. Middle East negotiator presented such an idea as an alternative to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which collapsed.
Sharon has so far promised to coordinate his moves with the U.S., which has already put up red lines to the disengagement plan - no annexation of any part of the West Bank as "compensation" to Israel for quitting Gaza; no eastern fence in the West Bank; no organized transfer of evacuated Gazan settlers into West Bank settlements to strengthen settlement blocs there.
U.S. officials Steve Hadley and Elliot Abrams of the National Security Council and William Burns of the State Department are due here tomorrow to hear first hand from Sharon, his bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, and his national security advisor, Giora Eiland, what the prime minister actually has in mind when he speaks of disengagement. Sharon wants an invitation to Washington to present the plan to President George W. Bush.
Brig. Gen. Ibal Giladi, until recently the head of strategic planning in the General Staff, recently visited Washington where he met with Abrams - but the Prime Minister's Office said yesterday Giladi was in the U.S. capital visiting a think tank and was not on a political mission.
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