Blair Must Distance Britain From Bush's Backing for Sharon Plan
By Britain-Palestine all party Paliamentary Group
April 15, 2004


Chair: Richard Burden MP


Tony Blair must distance himself from President Bush's backing of Ariel Sharon's plan to combine annexation of large parts of the West Bank with withdrawal from Gaza, if Britain is to retain credibility in the Middle East, according to the Labour MP who chairs the Britain-Palestine All Party Group in Parliament.

Richard Burden MP said today:

"Iraq may take centre stage in the discussions which take place when Tony Blair visits the USA this week. But everyone also knows that stability will not be achieved in the Middle East region as a whole without a just and durable solution to the situation in Israel and Palestine.

Unfortunately, President Bush's statement in support of the Sharon plan is not only blatantly partisan, it will make the Middle East a much more dangerous place.

The West Bank and Gaza are both illegally occupied by Israel. There are countless UN resolutions requiring Israel to withdraw. It is simply not a cceptable for Ariel Sharon to dictate to the world which parts he is prepared to quit and which parts he wants to incorporate into Israel.

By backing the Sharon plan, President Bush is endorsing a flagrant flouting of international law by Israel. Against this background, President Bush's claim that he still wishes to foster meaningful negotiations between the parties in accordance with the Road Map is meaningless twaddle.

The Palestinians do not occupy one inch of Israeli territory. They recognised the state of Israel years ago and simply assert that that they have an equivalent right to statehood alongside Israel. Just imagine the outcry there would be if the Palestinian Authority now said they were prepared to accept some of Israel's internationally recognised borders, but not others. Sharon is not only saying this kind of thing to the Palestinians, he is trying to impose it with tanks, settlements and the separation wall. It is appalling that this should be applauded by the President of the United States.

By imperiously dismissing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, President Bush is again trying to override an explicit decision of the United Nations, without even the most cursory attempt to see what the refugees themselves think.

Most Israelis simply want to live in peace and freedom. Most Palestinians want the same. Extremists on both sides threaten the prospect of achieving those things. Sharon's plan to "disengage" from Gaza has been exposed as a device to deepen his control in the West Bank. By letting Sharon get away with it, President Bush has single-handedly boosted the credibility of extremists on both sides and given a new impetus to the cycle of violence which has already claimed too many innocent lives.

If Britain is to retain credibility in the Middle East and contribute to achieving a just and durable peace in the region, the time has come for Tony Blair to distance himself from US policy. International law applies no less to Israel than it does to anybody else. As America's closest ally, Tony Blair is uniquely placed to tell President Bush some home truths on that score."


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