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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 22:52 GMT 23:52 UK
Analysis: Sharon causes trouble for Bush
Ariel Sharon
Don't sacrifice Israel, said Sharon
Paul Reynolds

Just when President Bush thought it was safe to assume that severe American pressure had quietened the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation while he built up the coalition against Osama Bin Laden, along came Ariel Sharon.

In an angry statement read out live, Mr Sharon threw the A word at the American President.

"Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," cried Mr Sharon. "It is unacceptable. Israel will not be another Czechoslovakia."

George Bush was furious. He regards himself as a good friend of Israel

He announced that he had ordered his defence forces to "take every necessary step to achieve full security for the citizens of Israel".

The ceasefire, such as it was, was over... again.

Double standard

Mr Sharon's anger was fuelled by what he feels is a double standard - that violence against Israel is regarded as understandable while violence defined as "global terrorism" is not.

George Bush was furious. He regards himself as a good friend of Israel.

He had gone there soon after being re-elected Governor of Texas in 1998, a visit which was a sure sign that he was going to run for the presidency.

Ariel Sharon had been one of his guides. Now Sharon was comparing him to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who sacrificed Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938.

There is hardly a worse insult to a politician trying to become a statesman.

The White House threw Mr Sharon's words back at him. They were "unacceptable".

In due course, there came the inevitable follow-up statement from the Israeli leader, about how wonderful a friend to Israel the United States was.

Damage done

But the damage had been done.

Mr Bush could have done without this.

An escalation between Israelis and Palestinians could undermine support for the coalition.

It will divert attention from his declared war on terrorism.

But he could play this to his advantage.

Being attacked by Ariel Sharon can be beneficial if you are seeking Muslim support.

And everybody in the Middle East has noticed that Mr Bush let it be known a few days ago that he envisaged a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one.

But it is not like the more manageable days of the Gulf War.

Then, President Bush senior was dealing with the more compliant former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who knew when not to upset the United States.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"A speech which has pleased right-wingers but which has surprised, even horrified, others"
Former US Senator George Mitchell
is asked if Israel is indeed being 'sold out'
See also:

04 Oct 01 | Middle East
Don't sacrifice Israel, warns Sharon
02 Oct 01 | Middle East
Bush 'endorses' Palestinian state
30 Sep 01 | Middle East
Israel gives Arafat ceasefire ultimatum
20 Sep 01 | Middle East
Risks and rewards of Mid-East truce
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