Earlier this week, President Bush endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal for a new roadmap to peace between Israel and Palestine. Sharon's proposal calls for a unilateral retreat from the Gaza Strip, yet still maintain settlements on the equally contentious West Bank. In endorsing this, President Bush has reversed America's policy towards the region. Editorial boards abroad have weighed in on this decision.
"U.S. President George W. Bush, in his eagerness to secure the Zionist vote for his re-election, has decided to consider the Palestinian right of return as void, no doubt to please Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. And that wasn't the only present he made to the Israeli leader. He also announced that certain realities on the ground–referring to some of the big settlements built on occupied Arab land–need not be returned. Of course the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei rejected the Bush statement, not that he had a choice, for no Palestinian would agree to forego the right of return or accept Israeli settlements in the occupied territories thus turning a future independent Palestinian state into a Swiss cheese. Through such a move Bush is pushing the Palestinians to fight to the last man–with or without the rest of the Arab countries. No Palestinian would consent to agree to any change in the UN resolutions unless it is agreed upon in the final status negotiations. The Arab nation should brace for more bloodshed in the coming days, for Palestinian resistance will not take this lying down."
– Bahrain Tribune, April 16, 2004
United Arab Emirates
"Two days ago U.S. President George W. Bush stood years of American policy on its head and came out in favor of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan….Bush has caused the U.S. to abandon decades of maintaining a position which was based on international law and UN resolutions, and instead opted to recognize the right of one side to impose its own view through military force. By allowing the Israeli prime minister to hijack American foreign policy, the Bush administration has made clear that it has no idea of how the Middle East works… Bush has condemned the Palestinians and Israelis to continued armed struggle, because Palestinians cannot accept Sharon's unilateral schemes… The implications of this shattering failure of integrity will run for years. It means that any Arab hopes of treating the Americans as honest brokers are totally destroyed… Any friends of the U.S. in the region are left further betrayed and exposed by the American administration failure to stand up for international law."
– Gulf News, April 16, 2004
"U.S. President Bush has brought about a sea change in [U.S.] policy and has supported the Israeli prime minister's disputed plan for unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Bush has said that Israel could keep half of the Palestinian territory and that Palestinian refugees would not have the right to return to Israel…. Under Sharon's plan with the White House's seal of approval, Israel would have the right to permanently keep 120 out of 121 Jewish settlements….The government of Pakistan should condemn the plan in categorical terms… It would not be beside the point to say that whatever America is doing for Israel and against the Palestinians, it would do against Kashmiris and for India."
– Nawa-e-Waqt, April 16, 2004
"What is more important is that the support of the US Administration for Sharon's policies will undermine all the international efforts for a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict. With this support, the United States will take the conflict back to square one. This will further incite the Arab and Muslim people, particularly the Palestinian people, and will heighten their animosity and hatred for its policies to the highest point. This will inevitably lead to a new wave of violence, chaos, wars, and destruction."
– Ibrahim al-Absi, Amman Al-Dustur, April 15, 2004
"US President George Bush yesterday submitted to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's demands in a step that foretells a political transformation that will reflect negatively on the peace process in the region. Bush has endorsed Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan and supported his request to keep Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank."
– Jedda Ukaz, April 15, 2004
"Simply put, George Bush has accepted Ariel Sharon's road map, not the other way around…. Two years ago, Donald Rumsfeld had to be quickly slapped down by the State Department when he rewrote decades of US foreign policy on the hoof and referred to settlements in the 'so-called occupied territories'… Yesterday Mr Rumsfeld's boss went much further, embracing some of the Jewish settlements regarded by virtually everyone as illegal under international law and by successive US administrations as 'obstacles to peace'… Last night the Palestinians were left spluttering and incredulous…. They will become angrier. And the reverberations will echo around the Middle East, from Gaza to Beirut, and from Fallujah to Najaf."
– Stephen Farrell, London Times, April 15, 2004
"Bush's pledges to Sharon would make it very difficult for us, Arabs and Muslims, not to hate this American administration, which is sparking the fire of violence and terrorism by its racist, biased policies against the weak and oppressed… The Palestinians have no alternative except resisting the occupation and this poisonous American peace."
– Abdel Bari Atwan, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, April 15, 2004
"Bush's words were not only rejected by the Palestinian Authority, but also by the whole of the Arab world, for they imply the implicit recognition by the U.S. of the right of the Jews to continue maintaining settlements in the occupied territories… Bush's statement yesterday has removed the possibility of an agreed upon solution to the conflict and, of course, has made the implementation of the Road Map, supported by the UN, Russia and the EU, impossible."
– El Mundo, April 15, 2004
"[President Bush] described Mr. Sharon's proposals to withdraw from Gaza in return for such US undertakings as 'historic and courageous'. But Palestinian leaders have reacted angrily, saying such unilateral US-Israeli deals will undermine the internationally agreed road map towards a settlement. These events underline how important and urgent it is to reassert international will on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the United Nations. That requires a readiness by other Security Council members to act against such US unilateralism in coming days and weeks. US policy and Iraqi realities seem worlds apart."
– The Irish Times, April 15, 2004