Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Sharon Charges Ahead on all Fronts
by M. Plaut

Despite the pressure put on him by the Palestinians and the Europeans, prime minister-elect Sharon is working hard to bring the unruly realities into line on many fronts.

Even though he won an overwhelming victory at the polls, much of the leadership and the elites, both in Israel and in other parts of the world, is deeply suspicious and concerned by what Ariel Sharon will do. Part of this is due to his policies, but much of it has to do with the demonization of him by the Israeli press which has carried over to their colleagues throughout the world.

Even though it was obvious that Sharon would win for weeks before the election, the size of the victory and the fact of the change in government has left people off balance and Sharon is moving quickly to get his version of himself into the public eye before any other version gets established.

He launched a diplomatic initiative early this week, sending emissaries to important capitals throughout the world. Former ambassador to France Ovadia Sofer left Monday for Paris, for talks with President Jacques Chirac. From there he is slated to go to Brussels and a likely meeting with Chris Patten, the European Commission's commissioner for external relations.

In addition, former Foreign Ministry director-general Eitan Bentsur was slated to leave for meetings in Moscow and London.

A more substantial delegation comprised of former foreign minister Moshe Arens, former ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold, and former ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval left for high-level meetings in Washington. They are scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and apparently also with National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. They are also slated to see leading senators and congressmen.

Reportedly the emissaries will explain the outlines of Sharon's approach, consisting of several points. The first is that he is very interested in advancing the peace process, but stopping Palestinian violence and incitement against Israel and restoring a sense of security to Israel's citizens are his top priorities. He will refuse to negotiate under fire.

The second is that Sharon wants to ease the economic sanctions Israel has imposed on the Palestinians in response to the intifadah. However, the violence must be reduced for this to be possible. Yesterday, Sharon said he had planned to take immediate steps to ease life for those Palestinians who are not involved in terror attacks, but the recent severe upswing in the violence makes this difficult.

The third element of Sharon's message is that since reaching a final-status accord with the Palestinians has failed, negotiations must now focus on long-term interim agreements. This point has also been accepted by Labor in coalition negotiations. The Palestinians have not indicated their position on this matter yet.

Fourth, Sharon is very interested in close ties both with the Bush administration and with both parties in Congress, and therefore does not plan to do anything that would negatively affect U.S. interests.

Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon found time on Sunday to meet with Abe Foxman, the director of Bnai Brith's Anti- Defamation League. The meeting at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv was intended to signify the great importance Sharon is putting on his relations with American Jewry. While Sharon's three predecessors dealt mainly with U.S. President Clinton and his officials, Sharon wants to involve American Jewry, in Foxman's words, "as a central instrument of Israeli policy, and irrespective of its support or lack of support for his candidacy as prime minister, he'll move to enhance relations with American Jewry."

The Bush Administration has already made clear that it does not plan to conduct its Middle East policy with the same level of intensity that the Clinton Administration devoted to the issue. That means the connection between the Israeli and American governments, irrespective of Sharon's election, will be returning to the traditional focus on the American Jewish community as a channel to the Senate and House of Representatives and as influential forces on the Administration.

Another reason for the change is that the new Bush Administration has few Jews in positions of importance, in contrast to the Clinton Administration.

As part of his post-election meetings with key officials, Sharon also met with the top tier of the Jewish Agency, telling them he plans to emphasize immigration and Jewish education.

Sharon also met with business leaders to explain his policies in the economic sphere and to assure them that he places great emphasis on economic discipline and growth (see separate article).


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