Sharon in Broadcast Address Offers No Cure for Terror

Israel will create buffer zones buttressed by physical barriers to bring about “security separation” between Israel and Palestinian territory. Demarcation work will begin at once. This was the main message prime minister Ariel Sharon delivered in a rare broadcast address to the nation Thursday night, February 21.
His speech, picked up also by Arab broadcasting stations around the Middle East including al Jazeera, failed to offer the tangible solutions Israelis are demanding to halt the constantly escalating spiral of Palestinian terror. Confining himself to generalities, Sharon declared: “We shall not rest until the terrorist infrastructure is dismantled.”
He firmly refuted the reports that international pressure from anywhere, including Washington, restrains the Israeli armed forces’ hand against Palestinian terrorists. “There are no political curbs on our security forces,” he declared.
Sharon issued a call for national unity in hard times. Denying cracks in Israeli society, he blasted the reservist officers who publicly campaign against service in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as “providing encouragement for terrorist groups”.
The Israeli prime minister means to continue meeting Palestinian Authority officials. He promised to persist in his efforts to avert escalation of the conflict and its decline into comprehensive war – but no peace negotiations without a total ceasefire.
Responding to the critics who accuse him of having no political program, Sharon proposed an interim accord with the Palestinians based on non-belligerence, once a complete cessation of violence is in place. An immutable proviso of any peace accord will be the demilitarization of Palestinian-ruled territory.
He repeated his readiness for “painful concessions” in return for true peace, but insisted on final borders being predicated on Israel’s security needs and the relationship evolving during the period of the interim agreement.
Sharon, after saying his piece, avoided answering most of the questions put him by correspondents, including these three:
1. After the detention in Nablus of the PFLP murderers of the Israeli tourism minister, Rehavam Zeevi, on Thursday, will Yasser Arafat be freed from his 12-week long confinement in Ramallah and allowed to attend the Arab summit in Beirut at the end of March?
2. Will Israel stand by its original demand for the suspected murderers’ extradition?
3. Which side of the border will the new buffer zones run and how will they affect local inhabitants and the Jewish settlements?
Sharon ignored the first and the third questions, the second, he fudged.

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