Bureau Chief, Israel Resource News Agency

BY-David Bedein Over the last 72 hours, the Israeli public has come to learn that President George W. Bush never promised Ariel Sharon that the US government would support the retention of settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. Sharon was counting on one thing: That the Israeli public would not read the letter that Bush sent to Sharon on April 14th. 2004, where Bush made no such commitment. That letter, released in the wee hours in the morning in Israel, eight hours AFTER Sharon’s meeting with Bush, gave Sharon time to „spin” Bush’s anticipated letter, so as to misinform the Israeli people that he had made a horse-trade with Bush: Demolition of 5 Jewish communities in Northern Samaria and 21 Jewish communities in the Katif District in Gaza and the dismantling of vital Israeli intelligence positions in those areas in exchange for strengthening of other areas settled but not yet annexed by Israel. When our news agency reviewed the actual text of the Bush Letter to Sharon, we were stunned to see that the text of the letter from Bush did not match the headlines in all of the Israeli media the next morning. Indeed, Sharon’s designated spokesman, Zalman Shuval, appeared on morning talk shows on the morning following the Bush-Sharon meeting to herald the deal that Sharon had made in achieving Bush’s agreement to recognize settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. When our news agency asked Shuval if he had read the letter, he responded in the negative. Yet Shuval never changed his line. Neither has the Prime Minister’s media office. For almost a year, this has been the line, that Bush promised recognition of settlement blocs, culminating in Sharon’s February 16th address to his annual meeting with the foreign press in Israel in which Sharon once again stated that Bush had promised Sharon that the US would indeed recognize settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. Following that address, our news agency dispatched a letter to the US embassy and asked if it was indeed the case that President Bush had assured PM Sharon the US would recognize settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. The spokesman of the US embassy responded: „no”. Simple. No spin machine from the office of the Prime Minister of Israel was be able to cope with this one word, two-letter response from the US embassy. Recent assurances from the US ambassador to Israel that the US does not demand that Israel will be forced to return to the 1967 lines cannot be interpreted as a US recognition of settlement blocs in Judea, Samaria or even Jerusalem. Not returning to the 1967 lines could mean that the US will not demand that Israel dismantle the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, constructed in 1978, which traverses Latrun, which was held by Jordan from 1949 until 1967. BPI-INFO ++++