Sharon-Bush Talks Will Focus on Iraq War – Not Palestinians

by DEBKAfile

13 October 2002

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon’s visit to Washington on Monday, October 14, is officially described as being to coordinate the two countries’ actions in the coming war against Iraq. However, certain voices, some coming from the Israeli foreign ministry too, are trying hard to force Sharon’s talks in the White House into the frame of the What’s Next after Saddam debate in Washington. They advise him to settle for a deal on the Palestinian issue with President George W. Bush now, or else face much steeper demands after the war is over.

These voices come from those Israel circles, who are anxious to preserve the Palestinian Authority, albeit after certain reforms. They echo voices in the US State Department who advocate building the future of Palestine on the existing Palestinian Authority. They do so in the same breath as they urge basing the future central government in Baghdad on incumbent institutions.

These groups of opinion are fully supported in Europe and the United Nations secretariat – but completely at odds with President Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.

Five months ago, DEBKAfile began reporting on the vision the top Bush team entertains of a clean sweep of the current Palestinian leadership and its institutions and their replacement by new governing bodies untainted by terror and corruption. The most recent proposal coming to the fore - the appointment of Arafat’s No. 2, Abu Mazen, to a newly-created post as prime minister with broad powers - is intended as no more than an interim measure to arrest the rapid descent of Palestinian civil and paramilitary authority into anarchy.

Bush and Cheney feel the same way about Iraq. They are not persuaded by the arguments coming from the State Department and CIA in favor of building the new on the foundations of the old. Neither are similar arguments likely to dissuade them from their aspiration to renew the Palestinian leadership from tip to toe.
Since Bush and Sharon are of one mind on the Palestinian question, their conversation will most probably focus on the coming war.

The ground they will need to cover will include American and Israeli military responses to chemical, biological or nuclear attack by Iraq or terrorists; the action to be taken in the event of American being subjected to a major terror attack like 9/11, and what will happen if Israel is attacked by Iraq or terrorists, whether al Qaeda, Hizballah or the Palestinians.

The two leaders will seek maximum military-strategic understanding and coordination in the face of these threats. In effect, in the last two weeks, American and Israeli high-ranking officials have been immersed in formulating the relevant understandings and accords. They should now be ready for finalization in top-level face-to-face encounters at the White House