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7/4/03 - SHARON-ABBAS MEETING - 2003-07-07

Israelis and Palestinians appear to be making progress. On July 1st, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem. Both leaders made statements indicating, as President George W. Bush put it, that they are “willing to take a risk for peace.”

Prime Minister Sharon said that “Israel’s hand has always been extended in peace to all Arab states and to our Palestinian neighbors”:

“In the name of the entire Jewish people, we have no war with you. We do not want to conquer you. We do not want to oppress you. We would like to live with you in peace, side by side as good neighbors.”

Prime Minister Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, said it is time for Palestinians and Israelis to “put the past behind us”:

“Enough suffering. Enough of killing. Let us go forward with bravery, without hesitation, towards a peace.”

Speaking at the White House on July 2nd, President Bush said he is optimistic but also recognizes that there are people, like the members of the terrorist group Hamas, who hate Israel and “hate the idea of peace”:

“They can’t stand the thought of a peaceful [Palestinian] state existing side by side with Israel. And they are willing to -- may be willing to attack.”

President Bush said the Palestinian Authority needs a capable security force to counter the terrorists. Palestinians also need economic hope:

“The Palestinian people must know that by accepting a peaceful government, by embracing the prime ministership of Abu Mazen, that there is a better day ahead for them when it comes to making a living.”

That is why, said President Bush, the U.S. will work “to promote economic development in a secure environment. . . . We understand that there have been years of hatred and distrust. And we’ll continue to keep the process moving forward.”