Sharon to panel: Iraq is our biggest danger
Published 00:00 13.08.2002
By Gideon Alon
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iraq "is the greatest danger facing Israel."
Asked by Labor Party MK Ophir Pines-Paz and Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen if Israel plans to attack Iraq if Baghdad attacks Israel, Sharon said that "we don't know for certain if the U.S. will attack Iraq. Iraq is a great danger. It could be said it is the greatest danger. We aren't intervening in U.S. decisions." But he said that "strategic coordination between Israel and the U.S. has reached unprecedented dimensions."
Asked about the chance of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Sharon said that "no deal will be done at the expense of our security." He said that a deal is possible "only in stages" because "we cannot agree to any change as long as we can't see there has been a change in relations between us. We will not agree to any step that is irreversible."
Sharon emphasized that talks must continue with the Palestinians, "but there is a problem with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. As long as he is head of the PA, we can't reach an agreement because the terror won't stop. This isn't my personal problem. It is a political problem." He said steps must be taken "to advance the process and that has nothing to do with our war on terror. At the end of the day we will have to reach an agreement. I hope we reach it. If Arafat wasn't there, it would take less time."
Asked by Meretz MK Naomi Chazan why Israel does not open negotiations with the PA, Sharon said "I don't think that we'll be able to remain permanently in Nablus, Jenin, and certainly not Gaza. Anyone who thinks we'll stay for years is simply wrong. I think that we will have to return to the most important thing for us, and the dispute among ourselves is over what is that most important thing."
Herut MK Michael Kleiner outraged MKs when he proposed to Sharon that the IDF carpet bomb Palestinian cities. He was responding to Sharon's request that the MKs in the committee propose ways to deal with the terror problem. When Sharon said Israel has no intention of harming the civilian population that is not involved in terror, Kleiner interrupted. "Are the 100,000 people who attended Salah Shehadeh's funeral innocent?"
Kleiner explained that a quick victory was within reach if Israel took the right steps. "Just like the Americans bombed the German city of Dresden in World War II, and they bombed Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, we should do the same." He proposed an IDF plane drop leaflets warning people to leave their homes in time, and that the bridges to Jordan be kept open "because after the bombing the people won't have anywhere to return."
Sharon angrily shot down the idea. "I would never do such horrible things. That would be an enormous mistake. You do it when you're prime minister," he said to Kleiner. MK Ran Cohen, chairman of the committee, summed up, "Kleiner's proposal is as disgusting as the suicide bombings."