Bush Pressuring Sharon To Release Palestinian Terrorists Who "Have Blood On Their Hands"


22 July 2003

Bush’s underlying message to Sharon was that his tentative steps toward opening up peace channel to Damascus will not deflect US-Palestinian pressure for releasing Palestinian terrorists “with blood on their hands”. This will be Abu Mazen’s principal demand of the US President on Friday. DEBKAfile’s Washington sources disclose that President Bush’s accusations against Syria and Iran on Monday were also meant for the ears of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who has been invited for talks in the White House on July 29. On Friday, July 25, the Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas will be received by the US president in Washington for the first time. He is coming with a shopping list, at the top of which is a demand that Israel free a large number of terrorists from its prisons, including terrorists “with blood on their hands” and Hamas and Jihad Islami members.

Sharon, limited by government decisions from setting the latter categories loose, sought to create a diversion by developing an independent peace channel to Damascus. By attacking Syria as a sponsor of terrorists, Bush effectively blocked Sharon’s ploy. The implication is that if the Israeli leader is not too squeamish to do business with hard-line regimes like that of Bashar Assad which harbor al Qaeda and Hamas and Jihad Islami command centers, it can certainly bring itself to make concessions to the non-terrorist Abbas and his interior minister Dahlan.

There are indications that the Bush administration is cross with Sharon for his Syrian initiative and, to make things worse, using a UN official, Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen as his go-between. Bush has no great love for UN officials and even less for surprises, especially when they come from Sharon who until now worked in perfect harmony with the White House.

From the US capital, the Israeli prime minister is seen to be shutting out of his counsels his defense and foreign ministers, Shaul Mofaz and Silvan Shalom - both of whom he has found indiscreetly forthcoming to the media on government policy, and barricading himself behind a hard shell in readiness for his White House talks. Quite aside from the real concerns posed by al Qaeda in Iran, Syria and Lebanon, Bush advisers are intent on cracking the Israeli leader’s shell so as to bring him round to advancing the concessions on the list brought by Palestinian leaders.