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White House Fury over Sharon Jibe

g and compass

BBC News

Friday, 5 October, 2001, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK

Sharon moves to appease US

US president George Bush and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Khalifa al-Thani,
Mr Sharon is unhappy with US coalition building

Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has tried to heal a diplomatic rift between Jerusalem and Washington.

But he stopped short of apologising for his comment on Thursday that the US was in danger of appeasing Arab states at Israel's expense to gain support for the coalition against terrorism.

That remark caused fury in the White House. President George W Bush found it "unacceptable", his spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

On Friday Mr Sharon expressed appreciation for the "deep friendship" of the United States in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Israeli government press office said.

Mr Sharon expressed his appreciation for the deep friendship and the special relations between the US and Israel

Israeli government press office

Mr Sharon also praised Mr Bush's determination to fight terrorism - which was seen as a way of saying that he had not meant to offend Mr Bush.

Mr Powell told Mr Sharon that both Israel and the Palestinians should take urgent steps to reduce the violence which has undermined the fragile ceasefire over the past week, a State Department spokesman said.

The ceasefire has not worked on the ground

The spokesman, Richard Boucher, said Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority had failed to prevent attacks on Israelis.

But he accused Israel of reacting provocatively to such violence by sending troops into Palestinian-controlled areas.

Mr Sharon's remark about appeasement on Thursday was his strongest criticism yet of the United States, Israel's closest ally.

It followed Mr Bush's endorsement earlier in the week of a Palestinian state.

He compared the treatment of Israel with events leading up to World War II, when Britain and France stood by while Nazi Germany dismembered Czechoslovakia.

"Those comments made by the prime minister are unacceptable in the president's opinion," Mr Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, told reporters.

He added that Mr Sharon had been informed of the American response to his comments through the US embassy in Israel.

One of Mr Sharon's aides quickly said that the prime minister had not meant to imply that the United States was acting in a "dishonourable way".

But that is exactly how Mr Sharon's use of the emotive term "appeasement" seems to have been understood in Washington, analysts said.

Historical echoes

The early policy of "appeasement" towards Nazi Germany in the 1930s was later seen as tainted with dishonour.

The term itself started to be seen as pejorative after it became accepted that trying to "appease" Hitler's Germany had been a misguided or even a cowardly policy.

Pressure for peace

Washington has pressed Israel to agree to a ceasefire with the Palestinians in the hope that a cooling of the conflict in the Middle East will persuade Arab states to join up with a US-led coalition to battle terrorism.

But the truce has been a failure on the ground.

Since it was signed, at least 21 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and five Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks.

On Thursday Mr Sharon annulled an earlier promise to suspend military strikes.

And he issued his blunt warning to the Western world, and particularly the US.

"I call on the Western democracies, and primarily the Free World, the United States, do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938 when Europe sacrificed Czechoslovakia. Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," he said.

Israel's neighbour Jordan also condemned Mr Sharon's "irresponsible" and "anti-peace" remarks.

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