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6/2/03 - MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS - 2003-06-02

President George W. Bush plans to travel to the Middle East as part of the effort to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Bush may meet with Israeli Prime Minister Aariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Sharon has persuaded the Israeli cabinet to support a U.S.-backed plan -- known as the road map -- that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Mr. Sharon told a reporter for an Israeli newspaper that, “The moment has arrived to divide this tract of land between us and the Palestinians.”

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says that Mr. Sharon “is committed to a two-state solution”:

“I think what you’re seeing is a leader of Israel who wants to find a way to bring peace to the region, who is committed to a two-state solution, as he has said.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas has likewise accepted the road map and called for an end to terrorist attacks against Israel and for Palestinian reform. When Mr. Abbas took office in April, he said “part of the responsibilities of the government should be to build the pillars of this [new] state, including the preparation for presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections."

It is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to find common ground, says White House spokesman Fleischer:

“Each individual entity or nation will be responsible for finding their own way to support that road map. The United States cannot do it for them, but the United States can be there to help the various parties come together, to work them along through good diplomacy.”

All people in the Middle East -- Arabs and Israelis -- deserve to live in dignity, under free and honest governments. People who live in freedom are more likely to reject terrorism and are more likely to turn their energy toward reconciliation. As President Bush put it, “There can be no peace in the Middle East unless there is freedom for both.”