Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, addressing the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, urged the Palestinian Authority to follow Israel's withdrawal from Gaza with a crackdown on anti-Israel extremists and incitement. He also defended his country's controversial security barrier in the West Bank.
Mr. Sharon's U.N. address came only a few days after the last Israeli troops left Gaza after 38 years of occupation, and he said the pullback proved Israel's readiness to make painful concessions in order to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.
The Israeli leader said the controversial disengagement plan ignited a difficult crisis in Israeli society and extracted a heavy political toll on him personally.
But he said he is convinced it is the right path for the future of Israel, and said it is now incumbent upon the Palestinians to curb terrorism. "The most important test the Palestinian leadership will face is in fulfilling their commitment to putting an end to terror and its infrastructures, eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs, and cease the incitement and indoctrination of hatred towards Israel and the Jews," said Mr. Sharon. "Until they do so, Israel will know how to defend itself from the horrors of terrorism."
Mr. Sharon said the successful implementation of the disengagement plan opens up what he termed a window of opportunity for advancing toward a settlement with the Palestinians under the international peace road map.
He said Israel will continue work on and complete its controversial security barrier in the West Bank, saying it is indispensable in preventing terror attacks in Israeli cities and saves lives.
The Israeli prime minister's address also included an expression of deep concern about Iran and its nuclear program. Without mentioning Iran by name, he said there is among the U.N. membership, a country whose leaders call for wiping Israel off the face of the earth, and that no one speaks out against it.
"The attempts of that country to arms itself with nuclear weapons must disturb the sleep of anyone who desires peace and stability and the Middle East and the entire world," he added. "The combination of murky fundamentalism and support of terrorist organizations creates a serious threat that every member nation of the U.N. must stand against."
This week's U.N. summit gathering in New York has provided an opening for some new Israeli contacts with Muslim countries.
Mr. Sharon shook hands at a reception with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf after a landmark meeting in Turkey last week between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
However at a U.N. news conference Thursday, Mr. Musharraf said normalization of ties with Israel must await a peace accord bringing Palestinian statehood.
"The key issue is [to] resolve the Palestinian dispute," said Mr. Musharraf. "Israel is recognized now by everyone. Almost everyone has recognized that Israel is there now to stay. But then a Palestinian State has to be created. They have to have their own homeland, and living in peace with each other. Israel and the Palestinians living in peace with each other, next to each other as neighbors."
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has met for the first time at the United Nations with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Hassan Wirajuda, and also held talks Thursday with his counterpart from Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.
The Qatari minister said full relations between the Gulf state and Israel are a possibility even before the formation of a Palestinian state, provided there is an agreed timetable for the peace process to unfold.