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Palestinians blast Bush´s softer tones on fence (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON AND JANINE ZACHARIA WASHINGTON 07/30/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1059446349337
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Palestinian leaders struck back at the White House and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday, a day after US President George W. Bush but toned down his criticism of the security fence.
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The fence is "racist" and a symbol of the lack of coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said in Amman, Jordan, Wednesday.
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Abbas told Jordan´s King Abdullah II the fence "has little value from a security point of view and the Palestinians reject it because it is being built on their lands," the official Jordanian news agency said.
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"The fence is racist," Abbas said. "It represents a title for no coexistence" between Israel and the Palestinians.
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Bush focused more on the need for Palestinians to defeat terror than for the fence to be stopped in his White House statements after a meeting in which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insisted it would continue to be built.
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Bush said the Palestinian Authority needed to "dismantle" terrorist capabilities, a comment that pleased members of Sharon´s delegation, who worried that despite his tough rhetoric on the need to combat terror, Bush had not stated explicitly enough that he expected Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to physically combat Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
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Palestinians were unsettled. "I had hoped that Mr. Bush would stand there next to Sharon and tell him stop it, stop building the wall," Palestinian lawmaker Saeb Erekat told The Associated Press in Jerusalem.
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In Gaza, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said Bush´s remarks showed that Abbas had failed to win U.S. acceptance of the Palestinian position in his trip to Washington.
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"The Bush statement reflects the total bias of the United States in favor of the Zionist enemy," Rantisi told the AP, "and it reflects also the failure of Prime Minister Abbas´ visit."
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Bush also reaffirmed America´s firm commitment "to the security of Israel as a Jewish state," which Israeli officials read as American opposition to a Palestinian demand that refugees be allowed to return to Israel as part of a final peace settlement.
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And directly before a meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal, Bush urged Arabs states to "reject the culture of extremism and violence" that undermines prospects for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
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"The Palestinian Authority must undertake sustained, targeted and effective operations to confront those engaged in terror, and to dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure," Bush said.
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Bush and Sharon during their eighth White House meeting discussed ways to push the peace process forward and focused on Palestinian concerns raised by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas during his meeting with Bush last Friday including the security fence and Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank.
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Sharon made a veiled allusion to the fence upon his arrival at the White House and signing the visitors´ book. "True friendship among allies can overcome every obstacle," he wrote. "No barrier can separate nations and leaders committed to peace, liberty and security."
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Bush thanked Sharon for making "it easier for Palestinians to work in Israel" and to travel, and urged him to take additional steps "to improve the daily conditions faced by Palestinians."
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"I also urged the Prime Minister to carefully consider all the consequences of Israel´s actions as we move forward on the road to peace," Bush said in apparent reference to Israel´s construction of a security fence designed to keep terrorists from infiltrating Israeli towns.
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Bush, when asked whether he objected to the concept of the fence or simply to its route, said, "the most effective way to fight terror is dismantle terrorist organizations" and that if that happened "in the long-term a fence would be irrelevant."
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Whereas Friday Bush described the fence as a "problem" and said, "it is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank," on Tuesday, Bush seemed more sympathetic to the Israeli position, and amenable to the idea of a fence with modifications.
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Bush, with Sharon at his side, described the fence as a "sensitive issue" and added: "My promise to (the prime minister) is we´ll continue to discuss and to dialogue how best to make sure that the fence sends the right signal that not only is security important, but the ability for the Palestinians to live a normal life is important as well." Sharon, speaking in Hebrew, said he and Bush "did not discuss the route of the fence."
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"I explained the importance of the fence as a factor that will lead to security, and security will enable us to reach peace. I said that we will continue to build the fence and that I am certainly ready to weigh ways to build it that will minimize difficulties for the Palestinians."
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Among the modifications Israel is considering is adding additional gates to enable Palestinians, whose crops and villages are on opposite sides of the fence, to cross over and work their fields.
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According to a senior official in Sharon´s entourage, the administration wants the fence to cause as little hardship as possible for Palestinian farmers.
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During the meeting, according to a the senior official, the Sharon stressed that the security fence was needed not only as a security barrier against suicide bombers, but also to keep Palestinians from illegally moving into Israel.
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Israeli officials hoped that argument would resonate with the Bush administration, since the US is erecting a fence in southern California to prevent illegal Mexican immigrants from crossing the border.
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Israel is investigating whether illegal Palestinians in Israel were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of IDF solider Oleg Shaichat, found buried on Monday.
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Sharon also pointed out at the meeting that the northern part of the security fence that has already been built has prevented terrorists from crossing into Israel in that area.
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And to illustrate the potential benefits of the fence, Sharon quoted the proverb from Robert Frost´s poem "Mending Wall," "good fences make good neighbors."
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Sharon said unauthorized settler outposts would continue to be removed.
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He told Bush 22 have been taken down, and that another 12 will be removed in the near future. He also said outposts that have already gone up to replace ones the IDF has removed over the last two months will also be dismantled.
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Bush and Sharon did not have a detailed conversation about a settlement freeze, the definition of which still divides the US and Israel. American and Israeli officials pledged to continue to discuss the issue.
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The two discussed the release of Palestinian prisoners and criteria Israel would employ in deciding whom to free.
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"I made it clear that terrorists with blood on their hands will not be released. In addition, those who are likely to again pursue terrorist activities or who were released and again participated in terrorist activities won´t be released," Sharon said.
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Bush said he did not expect Sharon "to release somebody from prison who will go kill somebody." But he encouraged Sharon to "release those prisoners that won´t create the conditions of terror."
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Sharon said that Israelis were "thankful for every hour of increased quiet and less terrorism and every drop of blood that is spared."
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But he indicated Israel´s concerns that terrorist attacks could resume at any moment, perhaps even before a three-month moratorium on attacks expires.
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"We are concerned that this welcome quiet will be shattered any minute as a result of the continued existence of terror organizations which the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to eliminate or dimantle."
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The issue of whether to let Yasser Arafat leave Ramallah in order to strengthen Prime Minister Abbas´ s position on the Palestinian street was not raised.
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Iraq and Iran were discussed. Sharon said that two alleged female suicide bombers who were arrested recently on their way to carrying out an attack had links with the Iranian-backed Hizbullah. During their press conference, Bush and Sharon read from prepared statements. At one point, Sharon seemed to lose his place.
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In a light moment, Bush pointed out that the pages were stuck together. "As you can see, we need your help," Sharon quipped. Sharon, in the White House guest book, wrote: "True friendship among allies can overcome every obstacle. No barrier can separate nations and leaders committed to peace, liberty and security for all."
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Their 90-minute White House lunch featured grilled snapper, tenderloin beef potatoes, feta cheese, and sorbet cakes.
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After meeting Bush, Sharon was scheduled to meet with US senators and with Secretary of State Colin Powell. On Wednesday, Sharon is due to meet Vice President Dick Cheney before returning to Israel. With The Associated Press (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 07/30/03)
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