Bush condemns settlement policy; UN adopts road map

20.11.2003 In a keynote address to Whitehall during his visit to London, U.S. President George Bush yesterday slammed Israel’s settlement enterprise and the daily humiliations of the Palestinians and called for an end to construction of the separation fence. Also yesterday, Russia won a unanimous decision in the United Nations Security Council backing the road map to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli officials said they were satisfied with Bush’s condemnation of contacts with „old leadership” Palestinians, whom he accused of corruption. Israel interpreted this to mean Yasser Arafat, while Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom made inroads during a meeting with European Union foreign ministers, asking them bluntly what gains they had made from their dialogue with Arafat. As for the Security Council resolution, just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign secretary, Ivan Ivanov, not to bring the road map to the Security Council, saying it would harm Israeli security. After hearing of Bush’s harsh comments about the settlements, Sharon told Israeli reporters in Rome yesterday that „everyone knows there are issues between Israel and the U.S. in which we don’t agree but that does not mean there is tension, and the relations between the two countries are correct and excellent.” He said that he has a personal friendship with President Bush and disagreements between the two countries would not harm that friendship. The Bush speech at Whitehall focused on the war in Iraq and its aftermath, the need to bring democracy to the Middle East and how a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict was part of that overall effort to democratize the Middle East. „Achieving peace in the Holy Land is not just a matter of the shape of a border,” he said, stating „the heart of the matter is the need for a viable Palestinian democracy,” and that „peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain their ties to terrorist groups … The long-suffering Palestinian people deserve better. They deserve true leaders, capable of creating and governing a Palestinian state.” Then he went on to criticize Israel’s policies in the territories in the bluntest terms he has used since becoming president. „Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences.” At the UN, the Security Council endorsed the performance-based peace plan, formulated by the Quartet – Russia, the U.S., the European Union and the UN. The resolution „calls on the parties to fulfill their obligations under the road map in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two states.” All 15 council members voted in favor of Resolution 1515, which was cosponsored by Britain, Bulgaria, Chile, China, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain as well as Russia. The resolution has three operative articles, after „recalling all its previous relevant resolutions, in particular resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and the Madrid principles.” It expresses „grave concern at the continuation of the tragic and violent events in the Middle East,” reiterates „the demand for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction,” reaffirms „its vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders,” and emphasizes „the need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks.” It then „welcomes and encourages” the Quartet „and others” and „endorses the Quartet’s performance-based road map” to achieve a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and „calls on the parties to fulfill their obligations under the road map in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security” and finally, it „decides to remain seized of the matter,” meaning that the road map’s progress is now on the Security Council’s agenda. Israeli officials in London and the UN tried to spin positive responses to both events, saying they were satisfied with Bush’s reference to the need to end contacts with the „old leadership,” meaning Yasser Arafat, while at the UN, Israeli diplomat Arye Mekel, deputy head of the legation, said, „Israel accepts President Bush’s vision of a two-state solution … and has proven its readiness to implement the road map as it is ready to prove now. But Israel does not believe that a new decision or statement is needed now. Now we need actions and not words.” Israeli diplomatic sources also said the Russians tried to pass the resolution without much media coverage. BPI.