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Ironduke
18 Dec 03,, 23:51
Sharon warns Palestinians on peace plan

HERZLIYA, Israel (CNN) -- Israel will begin to separate itself from the Palestinians if the Palestinian side does not meet its responsibilities under the road map for Middle East peace within several months, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday.

This "disengagement procedure," to be pursued "in maximum coordination with the United States," would include moving some Israeli settlements, drawing new security lines and altering the deployment of Israeli forces, Sharon said at a security conference in Herzliya, Israel. It would not create a final border, he said.

The road map -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- calls for a sequence of security, economic and political steps leading to an independent Palestine by 2005.

If Israel were to disengage, Palestinians would get substantially less than what they could negotiate through the road-map procedure, Sharon said.

The unilateral "disengagement" would be aimed at reducing terrorism and increasing security for Israelis while creating "minimum friction" with Palestinians.

Complaining that Palestinian leaders have failed to stop the terrorist attacks against Israelis, Sharon said, "We do not intend to simply provide Israeli society as a kind of hostage to Palestinians. We will not wait forever for them."

Under disengagement, "the number of Israelis in the midst of the Palestinian population will be reduced to a minimum," he said. "Those communities that will be relocated will in any future arrangement and settlement not be included in Israeli territory."

Palestinian and U.S. officials expressed concerns about the idea of Israel taking unilateral steps rather than strictly following the road map.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN that Israel should stick to the procedures in the road map, saying if it does, it will find a willing partner on the Palestinian side. "The road of dictation is a unilateral road -- and that's what this Israeli government has done since March 2001," he said.

"If Mr. Sharon is willing to come back to the negotiating table ... we are surely prepared to go back immediately," he said. "But you have to tell the Israelis he has to stop all settlement activities ... (and) dismantle all outposts."

He said Sharon avoided acknowledging in the speech that an end to Israel's occupation of territories seized in the 1967 war is a key step toward ultimately achieving peace.

Sharon, in his speech, said Israel remains fully committed to the road map. "It is vital to take every single step we can to lead to the settlement of differences with the Palestinians," he said.

"We are prepared to forge on with implementing it. ... The government will not spare any effort to put the plan into practice ... if the Palestinians do their part -- that is, to see the ousting of every single phenomenon of terrorism, because terrorism and peace do not go hand in hand."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States was pleased to hear Sharon's "strong reiteration of the road map as the way forward."

Without specifically criticizing the possible "disengagement procedure," McClellan said, "We would oppose any unilateral steps that block the road toward negotiations under the road map that lead to the two-state vision."

The road map, he said, is "the best way to achieve peace."

Sharon said Israel is trying to reduce the suffering of Palestinians in the hopes of advancing the road to peace. Israel is working to improve transport for people as well as goods to increase commercial ties, he said, "steps designed to ensure better the possibility of the Palestinian population not being involved in terrorism."

Israel will "hand over Palestinian towns and cities to Palestinian security responsibility," he said. "I pledged to the president of the United States that Israel will dismantle illegal outposts, and I do intend to this." Also, "we will not be confiscating any land for construction purposes."

Saying he wanted to address Palestinians, Sharon said, "We have no interest in controlling you. We are interested in you running your own lives, your own state -- a democratic Palestinian state with territorial contiguity in the West Bank and with an economic logic for tranquility, security, and peace with Israel.

"Abandon the path of terrorism and let us jointly put an end to this bloodletting."

http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/12/18/sharon.speech/index.html