The Bush administration has linked its support for the
dismantling of Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip to coordination with
the Palestinian Authority.
In its first detailed response, the administration expressed approval
for elements of an Israeli plan for unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. The White House endorsed the Israeli plan for the
dismantling of Israeli settlements but stressed that this must be
coordinated with the Palestinian Authority as part of a larger effort.
"Some Israeli moves to disengage by removing settlements could reduce
friction between Israelis and Palestinians, improve Palestinian freedom of
movement and address some of Israel's responsibilities in moving ahead
toward the vision described by the President in his June 24, 2002 speech,"
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said on Friday.
It was the first White House response to the plan by Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon. Until now, the White House and State Department
merely said they were examining Sharon's plan.
McClellan stressed that the dismantling of some Israeli communities was
an interim measure that could not replace the need for Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations. He did not endorse Sharon's notion to redraw a security
border in the West Bank without Palestinian consent.
"Some moves to disengage could help reduce friction between the
parties," McClellan said. "But, again, this is a plan that they are still
working on right now. And I don't want to speculate about their plans. We'll
continue to have a discussion with the government of Israel."
Officials said the White House and State Department have rejected
Sharon's plan to consolidate Israeli communities in the West Bank as Israel
withdraws from the Gaza Strip. They have also rejected an appeal for the
United States to approve the establishment of a security fence in the West
For his part, Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that
the administration was concerned over any unilateral Israeli process.
Instead, the secretary granted qualified endorsement to the so-called Geneva
Accords to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan, drafted by
several Israeli and Palestinian politicians, calls for an Israeli withdrawal
from the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip and the introduction of
international forces to ensure peace.
Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that the
Geneva Initiative is consistent with the third phase of the Bush roadmap
"with respect to what a Palestinian state might look like living side by
side in peace with Israel."
"But what we have to do is get started down phase one of the roadmap,
and that begins with ending terror," Powell said.