The Bottom Line / Dear Mr Sharon

I read the translation of your "Czechoslovakia speech" some days ago, but as you know, I have been preoccupied this week and have not been free to reply until now.

I read the translation of your "Czechoslovakia speech" some days ago, but as you know, I have been preoccupied this week and have not been free to reply until now.

You compare my policies with the appeasement policies of former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who, at the Munich Conference in September 1938, sacrificed Czechoslovakia so as to appease Adolf Hitler, and, ever since, has been regarded as a cowardly and obsequious leader, ready to sacrifice others.

You now accuse me of sacrificing Israel in order to "appease the Arabs," and call on me not to repeat "the dreadful errors of 1938". Can there be a more odious comparison?

I, George W. Bush, am currently conducting a policy directly opposed to that of Chamberlain. I have done so at great personal risk. Not only have I not attempted to appease the leaders of international terror outfits, not only have I not sacrificed a single state - particularly not Israel - but I have declared a war to the end against terror, knowing full well that as soon as American servicemen and women lose their lives, I will face a tremendous backlash in the United States, with my political foes waiting for me just around the corner.

And, by the way, this war against international terror is actually your war too; for who suffers more from terrorism than you? And bin Laden and the international terror organizations would like nothing better than your own destruction.

And there's another comment of yours that needs some clarification: "From now on, we will rely only on ourselves", you said. So perhaps you should try getting along on your own, without the terrible burden of the U.S.

For starters in "relying only on [yourselves]," I suggest we stop the $3 billion - part of it in the form of defense grants and part in civil support - that we send your way each year. What difference would drumming up another $3 billion make to you? It would only require huge investments and expanding Israeli industry by 33 percent, effective immediately. And how would you do that when factories are closing and people are losing their jobs and growth is not 33 percent, but actually negative? How are you going to do that without causing inflation or affecting the social budget? Whatever, this isn't my problem, because you are now relying only on yourselves.

And likewise, even if you do manage to scrape together a little cash, I'm not sure that we can sell you fighter planes, tank engines, missiles or advanced computers - because you can now manage on your own.

And it's not difficult to imagine how the international banks will react when it becomes clear that the United States has allowed Israel to "take care of itself". They will stop granting credit to Israel and Israeli companies in one fell swoop because the credit granted to Israel comes on the back of U.S. support over many, many years. And the moment we step aside, they'll get scared and run away; and the economic depression will inevitably deepen.

But who cares? As long as you can truly rely on yourselves now.