In a speech he delivered on Monday in Washington, DC, US President George W. Bush announced his intention to convene an international conference for "the establishment of a Palestinian state." The proposed conference, Bush said, would include Israel, the Palestinian Authority and certain Arab states.
As part of his Middle East foreign policy strategy, President Bush called upon Israel to
President Bush called upon Israel to make several immediate concessions.
make several immediate concessions to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). "Israel has a clear path," he said, explaining that this included releasing frozen tax revenues Israel collected on behalf of the PA, ceasing what he called the "continuing occupation of the West Bank," and finding "other practical ways [for Israelis] to reduce their footprint without reducing their security, so they can help President Abbas improve economic and humanitarian conditions." Specifically, Bush said, "unauthorized outposts should be removed and settlement expansion ended," adding that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in agreement with the principles Bush expressed.
Israelis "should be confident that the United States will never abandon its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people," President Bush added.
The bulk of the US President's speech did not focus on Israel, however, and it was dedicated to what he described as "a moment of choice" for PA Arabs: between the path of Hamas and that of Fatah, under the leadership of Abu Mazen.
Saying that "Hamas has demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is [more] devoted to extremism and murder than to serving the Palestinian people," Bush warned that following the Hamas path "would guarantee chaos, and suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance. They would surrender their future to Hamas's foreign sponsors in Syria and Iran. And they would crush the possibility of a Palestinian state."
President Bush contrasted the Hamas option with "the vision of President Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad; it's the vision of their government; it's the vision of a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people. To realize this vision, these leaders are striving to build the institutions of a modern democracy. They're working to strengthen the Palestinian security services, so they can confront the terrorists and protect the innocent. They're acting to set up competent ministries that deliver services without corruption. They're taking steps to improve the economy and unleash the natural enterprise of the Palestinian people. And they're ensuring that Palestinian society operates under the rule of law. By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future - and establish a state of their own."
The PA, Bush said, "must arrest terrorists, dismantle their infrastructure, and confiscate illegal weapons - as the Road Map requires. They must work to stop attacks on Israel, and to free the Israeli soldier held hostage by extremists. And they must enforce the law without corruption, so they can earn the trust of their people, and of the world. Taking these steps will enable the Palestinians to have a state of their own. And there's only way to end the conflict, and nothing less is acceptable."
Not content to leave the choice between Hamas and Fatah to chance, President Bush added that "all responsible nations have a duty to help clarify the way forward. By supporting the reforms of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, we can help them show the world what a Palestinian state would look like -- and act like."
To that end, Bush said, "This year, we will provide the Palestinians with more than $190 million in American assistance -- including funds for humanitarian relief in Gaza. To build on this support, I recently authorized the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to join in a program that will help generate $228 million in lending to Palestinian businesses. Today, I announce our intention to make a direct contribution of $80 million to help Palestinians reform their security services - a vital effort they're undertaking with the
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in agreement with the principles Bush expressed.
guidance of American General Keith Dayton. We will work with Congress and partners around the world to provide additional resources once a plan to build Palestinian institutions is in place. With all of this assistance, we are showing the Palestinian people that a commitment to peace leads to the generous support of the United States."
The Quartet - Russia, the US, the European Union, and the United Nations - will "coordinate international efforts to help the Palestinians establish the institutions of a strong and lasting free society," according to President Bush. Tasked with this job will be former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"Arab states have a pivotal role to play, as well," the US President continued. "They should show strong support for President Abbas's government and reject the violent extremism of Hamas. They should use their resources to provide much-needed assistance to the Palestinian people. Nations like Jordan and Egypt, which are natural gateways for Palestinian exports, should open up trade to create opportunities on both sides of the border.
"Arab nations should also take an active part in promoting peace negotiations. Re-launching the Arab League initiative was a welcome first step. Now Arab nations should build on this initiative -- by ending the fiction that Israel does not exist, stopping the incitement of hatred in their official media, and sending cabinet-level visitors to Israel. With all these steps, today's Arab leaders can show themselves to be the equals of peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan."
Summarizing the thrust of his speech, Bush said, "All the steps I've outlined are designed to lay the foundation for a successful Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza."