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Ha'aretz predicts "Clintonization" of Road Map -- Say It Ain't So, Daniel

Reader comment on item: [The Road Map:] Learning from Oslo

Submitted by David Goldman (United States), Jun 10, 2003 at 13:37

People and Politics / Bush likes Dahlan, believes Abbas, and has `a problem with Sharon'

By Akiva Eldar

According to one of the participants in the three-way meeting of the delegations, a lot can be learned about the swinging American pendulum from the Israeli side to the Palestinian side.

At the advance request of Israel, Bush's aides put security problems at the top of the agenda for discussion. "The first thing that Bush was required to talk about was security," says the participant, adding, "It was a request of the Israelis. So [Bush] asked Dahlan to give a briefing."

According to the source, Dahlan gave an excellent five-minute synopsis of the situation, and concluded by saying to Bush: "There are some things we can do and some things we cannot. We will do our best. But we will need help." Mofaz burst in at the end of Dahlan's presentation and said: "Well, they won't be getting any help from us; they have their own security service."

You could see that Bush was irritated, says the participant, and he turned on Mofaz angrily:"Their own security service? But you have
destroyed their security service." Mofaz shook his head and said: "I do not think that we can help them, Mr. President," - to which
Bush said: "Oh, but I think that you can. And I think that you will."

Then Bush turned to Abbas - again according to a script insisted on by the Israelis - and said: "Mr. Prime Minister, perhaps you could give an overview of the situation in the West Bank and Gaza." Abbas outlined the increasingly dire situation of the territories, saying that the humanitarian crisis was deepening, and that while recent actions of the finance minister had eased the problems, the insertion of new funding was necessary.

Sharon then interrupted and said: "The insertion of new funding must be dependent on your good behavior."

Bush was again visibly irritated: "You should release their money as soon as possible. This will help the situation."

Sharon shook his head: "We have to deal with security first, and we will condition the release of their monies on this alone."

Bush peered at Sharon: "But it is their money ..."

Sharon said: "Nevertheless, Mr. President ..." and Bush interrupted him: "It is their money, give it to them."

Clintonization? After that meeting, Bush turned to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and said, "We have a problem with Sharon I can see, but I like that young man [Dahlan] and I think their prime minister is incapable of lying. I hope that they will be successful. We can work with them." Bush was pleased with the determination with which Abbas rebuffed pressure from his ministers, Nabil Sha'ath and Yasser Abed Rabbo, to toughen the language of the Abbas speech, which he had agreed
upon with the American delegation before the summit. They said it would cause trouble in the Palestinian Authority. They argued heatedly with Abbas about his comments, at one point in front of the president. But Abbas insisted that his remarks follow the outlines set out by Bush. Bush watched the interplay and was pleased Abbas agreed to the suggestions of Bush on the draft
remarks: "If you will just do this, I pledge to you we will get where your colleagues want you to go. But we are going to take one step at a time."

Ever since the summit at the 1998 Wye River plantation, summoned by president Clinton and attended by Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and a Palestinian delegation headed by Arafat, when the Palestinians "received" 13 percent of the West Bank, they haven't had such a victory in the international arena. Encouraged by the impression that this time the game isn't tilted in favor of the Israelis, Abbas has become even surer that he has to stick as close as possible to Bush. What Sharon can do in his relations with the
president, Abbas can do better, or at least no worse. The closer the U.S. draws toward him, the further away grow the dangers posed by Hamas, Arafat and Abbas' rivals in Fatah.
Submitting....

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