U.S. threatened sanctions if Israel blocked 'Roadmap'

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The Bush administration has prepared a list of sanctions against Israel should it refuse to comply with a plan for a Palestinian state by the end of the year.

U.S. government and congressional sources said the list was prepared by the State Department and relayed to the National Security Council in April amid the administration's effort to press Israel to agree to the so-called roadmap. The roadmap, drafted by Washington as well as the European Union, United Nations and Russia, calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian war and the establishment of an interim state in 2003, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said the State Department's proposed list of sanctions included an examination of the use of U.S. weapons in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel has employed such platforms as the AH-64A Apache helicopter, the AH-1G Cobra helicopter and the F-16 fighter-jet in air attacks on Palestinian insurgents.

"It's hard to overestimate the anger within the administration toward Israel regarding the delays in the roadmap," a congressional source close to the administration said. "The White House doesn't regard the roadmap merely as foreign policy. It sees the roadmap as a major element toward the reelection of the president."

So far, the State Department has rebuffed efforts by pro-Arab lobbyists in Congress for the review. Officials said that so far they have not received evidence that U.S. weapons specifically targeted Palestinian civilians.

The threat of U.S. sanctions against Israel was relayed to a senior Israeli official, Dov Weissglass, through who the sources termed were individuals close to the White House. Over the last two months, Weissglass, an envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, held several meetings in Washington with senior administration officials in an effort to revise the roadmap. The sources said Weissglass understood that the sanctions threat stemmed from White House officials and relayed the information to Sharon.

The sources said the Israeli acceptance of the roadmap has suspended any action on the list of proposed sanctions. But they did not rule out that the administration would reconsider should Israel fail to implement the roadmap over the next few months.

The State Department threat to examine the Israeli use of U.S. weaponry could suspend arms shipment to the Jewish state. Israel has ordered the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter and expects the first F-16I fighter-jets to arrive later this year.

Other proposed measures against Israel drafted by the State Department included the suspension of $9 billion in U.S. emergency aid. The aid comprises $8 billion in loan guarantees and $1 billion in a military grant.

The sources said the money would have been held up on grounds that Israel has not implemented economic reform demanded by the United States.

The sources said Bush has pledged to Arab allies that he will continue to remain involved in the implementation of the roadmap. They said Bush has also pledged that a Palestinian state will emerge by the end of the year.

"The president's involvement is the biggest deal," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar, regarded as Bush's closest ally in Congress, said.

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