Israelis and Palestinians are making progress toward peace. On July 25th, Israel announced that it will remove more of the military checkpoints that make it difficult for Palestinians to travel to their jobs and schools. Israel has also pledged to transfer to the Palestinian Authority more responsibility for security on the West Bank, and to take further steps to remove settlements.
At his White House meeting with President George W. Bush, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said that he is committed to ending violence and terrorism against Israel. This is essential, said President Bush, “not only for Israel, but for the Palestinian people”:
“One reason why I’m willing to stand with the Prime Minister is because I believe that he has that commitment. He understands what I understand, that terrorists, every time, every place, will thwart the desires of those who want peace and freedom. And the commitment to fight terror and the results in fighting terror will make it a lot easier to deal with difficult issues, including the settlement issue.”
This fiscal year, the U.S. has provided nearly one-hundred twenty-five million dollars in assistance to the Palestinians. For the first time, twenty-million dollars of that total was recently provided as a grant directly to the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. and the Palestinian Authority will also establish a joint U.S.-Palestinian Economic Development Group. This group of U.S. and Palestinian Authority officials will be charged with finding ways to develop the Palestinian economy and find jobs.
President Bush said that, “This is a time of possibility in the Middle East”:
“And the people of the region are counting on the leaders to seize opportunities for peace and progress. Too many years and lives have been squandered by resentment and violence. The Palestinian people, like people everywhere, deserve freedom. They deserve an honest government and they deserve peace.” As President Bush put it, the lives of Palestinians “will improve with the vision of Prime Minister Abbas. And the Arab neighborhood understands that violence will lead to nothing except misery and the lack of hope.”