Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Bush's problem with Sharon
An interesting article in Ha'aretz on the irritable exchanges between U.S. president George W. Bush and Israeli officials in Aqaba. It also creates a context for the previous posting.

Here are some passages: "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.' "

Then: "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."

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