Bush optimistic about Palestinian state despite violence

March 5th, 2008 - 6:58 am ICT by admin  

Washington, March 5 (DPA) Despite some of the worst violence in the Middle East in years, US President George W. Bush has reiterated his support for a Palestinian state. “The United States is engaged and will remain engaged in helping convince the prime minister of Israel and President Abbas that now is the time to formulate a vision of what a state will look like,” he said.

Bush made the remarks Tuesday after meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the Middle East trying to move the peace process forward, after last week’s drastic escalation of violence.

Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority withdrew from talks in protest, and Rice has failed to get him to commit to a date for the restart of talks. Late Tuesday, Israeli forces backed by helicopters re-entered the southern part of the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian sources.

Bush dismissed the suggestion that the violence was a setback, because “this is a process that, you know, always has two steps forward and one step back”.

He also repeated his past insistence that a Palestinian state must be “contiguous territory. It can’t look like Swiss cheese”.

“The Palestinians have got to understand that this is an option available for them, and it will stand in stark contrast to the vision of Hamas, which has been nothing more than violence and deprivation,” he said.

Hamas militants in the Gaza strip have been firing homemade and, according to the UN, more sophisticated Katyusha-like rockets into Israel, while the Israeli army has retaliated with air and ground strikes.

More than 125 people have been killed, including many Palestinian civilians and at least 17 children, over the past week.

“We expect these leaders to step up and make hard decisions,” Bush said. “And I told His Majesty I’m optimistic - still as optimistic as I was after Annapolis.”

Bush, who has been bogged down with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than six years, has been criticized for failing to pay enough attention to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Late last year, he took the initiative to organize the gathering in Annapolis, Maryland, in November where a renewed commitment to a peace deal was made by the Arab world and Israel.

“There happens to be a timetable as far as I’m concerned, and that is, I’m leaving office,” Bush said.

Abdullah said that the discussions he had with Bush Tuesday would have “a very great response back in our part of the world” when he relays Bush’s commitment to “bringing a bright future to Israelis and Palestinians and to the whole area”.

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