Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Sharon-Bush Exchange of Letters - 2004

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April 2004

The disengagement plan of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

I. Overview

Israel is committed to the peace process, and aspires to reach a mutual agreement on the basis of two states for two peoples, the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, as part of the realisation of President [George W.] Bush’s vision.

Israel believes that it must act to improve the current reality. Israel has come to the conclusion that at present, there is no Palestinian partner with whom it is possible to make progress on a bilateral agreement. In light of this, a unilateral disengagement plan has been formulated, which is based on the following considerations:

A. The stagnation inherent in the current situation is harmful. In order to emerge from this stagnation, Israel must initiate a move that will not be contingent on Palestinian cooperation.

B. The plan will lead to a better security reality, at least in the long term.

C. In any future final-status agreement, there will be no Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip. However, it is clear that in Judea and Samaria, some areas will remain part of the state of Israel, among them civilian settlements, military zones and places where Israel has additional interests.

D. The exit from the Gaza Strip and from the area of northern Samaria (four settlements and military installations in their environs) will reduce friction with the Palestinian population and has the potential to improve the fabric of Palestinian life and the Palestinian economy.

E. Israel hopes that the Palestinians will have the sense to take advantage of the disengagement move in order to exit the cycle of violence and rejoin the process of dialogue.

F. The disengagement move will obviate the claims about Israel with regard to its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

G. The disengagement move does not detract from the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The existing arrangements will continue to prevail.

When there is evidence on the Palestinian side of the willingness, ability and actual realisation of a fight against terror and of the implementation of the reforms stipulated in the road map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiations and dialogue.

II. Main points of the plan

A. The Gaza Strip

1. Israel will evacuate the Gaza Strip, including all the Israeli settlements currently existing there, and will redeploy outside the territory of the Strip. This, apart from military deployment along the border line between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphia Route"), will be detailed below.

2. Upon completion of the move, no permanent Israeli civilian or military presence in the areas that are evacuated in the continental expanse of the Gaza Strip will remain.

As a result, there will be no basis for the claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory.

B. Judea and Samaria

1. Israel will evacuate the area of northern Samaria (Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur) and all the permanent military installations in this area, and will redeploy outside the evacuated area.

VI. The border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphia Route")

During the first stage, Israel will continue to maintain a military presence along the border line between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphia Route"). This presence is an essential security need, and in certain places, it is possible that there will be a need for the physical enlargement of the area in which the military activity will be carried out.

Later on, the possibility of evacuating this area will be considered. The evacuation of this area will be contingent on, among other things, the security reality and the extent of Egypt’s cooperation in the creation of a more reliable arrangement.…

VII. The Israeli settlements

Israel will aspire to leave standing the real estate assets of the Israeli settlements. (Note: subject to the presence of an international body that will accept proprietorship…)

XIV. Timetable

The evacuation process is planned for completion by the end of 2005.

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President Bush’s Assurances to Israel

We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared… The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking represents. I therefore want to reassure you on several points.

First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.…

Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and beyond, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organisations….

Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organisations. The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organisations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means…

The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognised borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

I know that, as you state in your letter, you are aware that certain responsibilities face the State of Israel. Among these, your government has stated that the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.

As you know, the United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent, so that the Palestinian people can build their own future in accordance with my vision set forth in June 2002 and with the path set forth in the roadmap….

Mr Prime Minister, you have described a bold and historic initiative that can make an important contribution to peace. I commend your efforts…

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