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December 24, 2004     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 24, 2004
 

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PAGE 24 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 24, 2004 Bush By Ron Kampeas .WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Anyone who has been through a messy divorce and then reconciliation can tell you: Money makes it all so much easier. That was the thinking last week as the United States dumped cash wherever it could to grease the wheels of Israeli-Palestinian peace- making. Everyone is getting stock- ing stuffers: Israel, the Pales- tinians, Egypt and Jordan. Examples of recent mu- nificence were the adminis- tration's extension last week of loan guarantees to Israel; discussion of new investment opportunities when Jordan's KingAbdullah IIvisitedWash- ington two weeks ago; and the U.S.-Israel-Egypt trade agree- ment announced last Tuesday, which could bring $150 mil- lion to Israel and create up to 250,000 jobs for Egyptians in the next year. "It's a very important development, it's something we've been working on for some time," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said of the agreement. "We think it's a very positive thing and offers opportunities to Israelis and Egyptians, in terms of business, jobs, ex- ports and modernization of their economy." As is typical of any rocky reconciliation process, not everyone is happy with the distribution of the wealth--leading the United States to find novel ways to try to rectify the situation. Faced with congressional pressure to keep $20 mil- lion the administration had promised to the Palestin- ians from going directly to the Palestinian Authority, which Israel fears would use it to finance terrorism, the Bush administration agreed--but then found an extra $3.5 million to go directly to the Palestinian Authority to facilitate Jan. 9 elections. The money is rollover cash from last year's U,S. Agency for International Develop- ment budget, an administra- tion official said, and therefore isn't subject to further con- gressional review. The extra cash--S2.5 million for the elections and $1 million for foreign observers--caught Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon off guard. He made clear to a top-level U.S. congressional delegation that he was not happy. "Prime Minister Sharon said that the Americans must focus on investments in eco- nomic projects in the Pales- tinian Authority and transfer funds for this purpose only, and not for economic budgets, since such funds will either disappear or be used to fi- nance terrorism," an Israeli statement said last Monday after Sharon met with Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), their parties' respective whips. In the past Israel could count on friends on Capitol Hill to stymie such efforts, but the flurry of recent photo courtesy of the White House President Bush meets with his Jordan's King Abdullah in the White House Oval Office, Monday, Dec. 6. Congressional visits--Hoyer and Blunt were the third top- drawer delegation to visit the region since P.A. President Yasser Arafat died Nov. 11--suggest that a president buoyed by his re-election last month and his party's control of both houses of Congress isn't about to brook opposi- tion. The Bush administration is eager to get Mahmoud Ab- bas, the likely winner of the P.A. presidency and a relative moderate who has "clicked" with Bush in the past, in place for future peace talks. U.S. officials now speak in glowing terms about reform in a PalestinianAuthority they were going out of their way to shun just months ago. But that was before the death of Arafat, who was seen in Washington as the principle obstacle to peace in the region. Announcing the P.A. hand- out at a donors meeting two weeks ago in Oslo, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns said it reflected "our confidence in the direction of the P.A.'s reform program, their fulfillment of the mid- 2004 World Bank Reform Trust Fund benchmarks for fi- nancial management, and our expectation that reform will continue to be implemented energetically." The adminis- tration is so eager to make sure Palestinian elections go smoothly that it's sending one of its toughest critics on Middle East policy--former President Jimmy Carter--to monitor the elections. "We need to remember what the big issue is here, and that's working with the Palestinians to ensure that the Jan. 9 presidential elec- tion results in an outcome that produces a credible and clear result," Boucher said Dec. 3. "That means us, that means the Israelis, it certainly means the Palestinians." That doesn't mean Bush wants to plunge full-speed ahead with peace after the P.A. elec- tions, just that he wants to make sure credible elections take place. In fact, Bush has made that killed five Israeli sol- diers in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians said it would be difficult for a Palestinian leader to condemn an attack on Israeli soldiers serving in clear that he wants to see the Gaza Strip. " " re Palestinian democratic re-Developments m the ~' W form linked to progress in gion depend on the questio Aa~ any peace process, of whether or not the PaI |:s "Achieving peace in the tiniansunderstand that !I!:AJ II Holy Land is not just a mat- must act against terror: ~ ~ at ter of pressuring one side or Sharon told the con~~,? the other on the shape of a men. To my regret, w~ i~l border or the site of a settle- not seen any change ul~ ! ~r'~ tl ment," he said earlier ~his now." The incremental month in Canada. "This ap- proachisnotgoingdo~,~ lxroach has been tried before with Europeans and Afar without success. As we nego- who fear that making Pale~" tiate the details of peace, we tinian reform a preconditior must look to the heart of the for Israeli concessions wilJ matter, which is the need for a Palestinian democracy." One signal of Bush's caution has been a reticence in the administration to praise Ab- bas too much. In an interview published last Tuesday, Abbas criticized the violenceof the Palestinian uprising, saying it had damaged rather than enhanced the Palestinians' cause, but the Bush admin- istration would not be drawn into praise. "I think we've made our views very clear that it's im- portant for the Palestinian Authority and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority to take steps to fight terror," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last Tuesday when pressed to praise Abbas' remarks. Israel and the United States were taken aback when Abbas refused to condemn a bomb- ing the weekend of Dec. 11 undermine Abbas after th~ elections. At a conference in MoroccO~ over the Dec. 11 weekend,] Arab foreign ministers be[ rated U.S. Secretary of Statel Colin Powell over U.S. support i for Israel--a frequent refraini from Arab leaders who say they can't allow politicalL freedom in their own coun'l tries while the Palestinia0 problem festers. "We can't rush it," Powell said, frustrated that a meet" ing meant to garner support for Bush's reform-for-peaCe initiative was going south. Bush wants the Europeans and Arabs on board for his ap" proach but has made clear that he will go ahead w ithout the~. He recently enlisted Cana~ and Pakistan, both eager to shore up influence with tlael Bush administration, to prodt the Palestinians to goverO} more responsibly, l FORESTRY EDUCATION WATER " COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT " SECURITY RESEARCH " TOURISM & RECREATION " ECOLOGY JNF, for ISRAEL forever.