Bush Promoting Palestinian State

U.S. President Bush says that promoting a Palestinian state alongside Israel tops his agenda, and he hopes it will be a fact by the end of his term.

, | updated: 10:57 AM

Bush spoke yesterday with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the inauguration of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. He told Shalom that his appointment of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State testifies to the seriousness of his intentions to bring peace to the Middle East.

Minister Shalom later confirmed, after speaking with Rice, that her first trip abroad in her new capacity would include a stop in Israel.

Rice herself has expressed reservations in the past about granting the PA statehood. On June 15, 2002, then-National Security Council chief Rice said, "Frankly, the Palestinian Authority, which is corrupt and cavorts with terror... is not the basis for a Palestinian state moving forward."

French Foreign Minister Michael Barnier said this week that he hopes for new initiatives and dialogue to bring peace between Israel and the PA. He said, however, that nobody could wait until the year 2009 as suggested by President Bush. "The more we accelerate the establishment of this [Palestinian] state, the better the interests of all will be served - including Israel and its security," Barnier said. He added eagerly that the new state could be established in interim borders in accordance with the principles of the Road Map plan.

Bush’s Road Map proposal specifies the formation of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005, but also makes it contingent upon the cessation of terrorism and incitement within the Palestinian Authority.

President Bush has been speaking with U.S. Congressmen about the resumption of financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Arafat's death. A Deputy State Department spokesman said the idea is "under consideration," but that "no decision has been made."