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Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Calls Israeli Presence in Palestine “Occupation,” Stunning Lawmakers; Now, the Foreign Ministry is Weighing Lifting a Ban on the Word

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President Bush will be meeting with Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas next week. A conversation between Rabbi Michael Lerner, and Ziad Asali on the U.S. “roadmap to peace.”

Israeli Army Radio is reporting the Foreign Ministry is today weighing distributing an internal regulation that will allow Israel’s official spokespeople to use the word 'occupation' for the first time.

The step follows unprecedented remarks by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Yesterday Sharon told lawmakers: “I think the idea that it is possible to continue keeping 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation–yes it is occupation, you might not like the word, but what is happening is occupation–is bad for Israel, and bad for the Palestinians, and bad for the Israeli economy. Controlling 3.5 million Palestinians cannot go on forever. You want to remain in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah and Bethlehem?”

According to Israeli Army Radio, until now, the word 'occupation' was considered forbidden, because it was believed that Israel would be seen in a bad light.

All of this comes as Sharon appears to be giving some support to Washington’s so-called “road map to peace”. Yesterday, Israeli officials said President Bush will attend a three-way summit with Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan next week. On Sunday, Sharon convinced his cabinet to give conditional approval to the US peace plan. It was the first time in history the Israeli government has formally accepted the idea of a Palestinian state.

But Sharon is still sending mixed signals. He also said yesterday the government will continue to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. He told a Likkud lawmaker and settler he can stay in his home. He said: “There is no restriction here. You can build for your children and grandchildren and, I hope, even for your great-grandchildren.”

Meanwhile, the expected meeting tomorrow between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas has been post-poned for a day. Palestinian sources told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz the delay was caused by scheduling conflicts. But the Guardian of London reports the cancellation is being interpreted as evidence that the Palestinian leader doesn’t see any value in meeting Sharon, and that the Palestinians believe all of Sharon’s latest moves are purely for propaganda purposes.

  • Rabbi Michael Lerner, founder of Tikkun Magazine and the author of several books includeing Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation, Jews and Blacks: A Dialogue on Race, Religon and Culture in America which he co-wrote with Cornel West.
  • Ziad Asali, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Asali was born in Jerusalem and studied at the American University of Beirut. He has practiced medicine in Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem and the United States. Asali is also the current Chairman of the American Committee on Jerusalem.

Links:

Tikkun Magazine

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

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