U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch says the United States is renewing its efforts to restart a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that during a recent trip to the region, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made progress on issues related to facilitating the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza.
Yet, difficulties remain "on both sides," Mr. Welch said. He cited the continued plight of an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Palestinian extremists in June and currently held captive by Hamas, and divisions between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
In a speech to the United Nations in June, Mr. Abbas re-affirmed the statements of mutual recognition made in 1993 by then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Hamas, however, refuses to recognize Israel or renounce terrorism. Armed clashes between Abbas' Fatah supporters and Hamas forces are ongoing and Palestinian terrorist groups connected to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to fire missiles from Gaza into Israel.
Hamas leaders have refused to join a government of national reconciliation with President Abbas if it means recognizing Israel. "Despite all efforts to encourage some form of agreement by the Hamas government to the conditions that President Abbas laid out in the [U.N.] General Assembly," Mr. Welch said, "there’s still no answer from them, or any answer that comes is not a positive answer."
President George W. Bush says that President Abbas shares the goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security:
"He's working hard to oppose violent extremists and build a society in which the Palestinian people can raise their children in peace and hope."
By supporting moderate leaders like President Abbas, says President Bush, the United States can help Israelis and Palestinians build a more hopeful future.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.