President George W. Bush says that the U.S. will sponsor an international meeting on the Middle East in an effort to achieve progress toward a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. The ultimate goal, he says, is the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with in Israel peace and security. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been holding talks on the core issues and have formed teams to memorialize their understandings in a joint document.
Mr. Bush says he is pleased by the progress Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas have made:
“In order for there to be lasting peace, the deal has to be good for the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis. Our job is to facilitate the process.”
Another goal, said President Bush, is to involve other Middle Eastern countries in helping to resolve Israeli-Palestinian differences and create a Palestinian state:
“That's what I mean by comprehensive. It's comprehensive not only for what the state will look like, it's comprehensive in getting people in the region to be a part of the process. And so I'm feeling pretty optimistic about it.”
Mr. Bush says he believes the Palestinian state can be democratic, but that bringing it into being will be difficult:
“And the reason it is hard, by the way, is because there are extremists who don't want there to be a democracy in the Middle East, whether it be in. Iraq or Lebanon or in the Palestinian Territories. . . .It’s broader than just the Palestinian Territories. It's a part of this struggle, this ideological struggle in which we're engaged.”
The United States, says President Bush, can support the creation of a democratic Palestinian state but cannot impose peace. “In order for there to be a Palestinian state, it's going to require the Israelis and the Palestinians coming to an accord,” he says. “We can facilitate that. But we can't force people to make hard decisions; they're going to have to do that themselves.”