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4/18/04 - ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL PLAN - 2004-04-19

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has announced plans to remove all Israeli settlements from Gaza and some settlements from the West Bank. Israel will also remove some military installations from both of these predominantly Palestinian areas. At a White House meeting with Mr. Sharon on April 14th, President George W. Bush called the Israeli plans “historic and courageous”:

“If all parties choose to embrace this moment, they can open the door to progress and put an end to one of the world’s longest running conflicts.”

Mr. Bush stressed that the U.S. remains committed to the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The U.S. is also committed to the “road map” that has been widely accepted as the means of reaching that vision. “Success will require the active efforts of many nations,” says President Bush:

“I held important discussions with President [Hosni] Mubarak of Egypt. And I will soon meet with King Abdullah of Jordan. We’re consulting closely with other key leaders in the region, in Europe, and with our Quartet partners -- the E-U, Russia, and the United Nations. . . . Working together, we can help build democratic Palestinian institutions, as well as strong capabilities dedicated to fighting terror so that the Palestinian people can meet their obligations under the road map.”

As Mr. Bush told Prime Minister Sharon, the U.S. is “strongly committed to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state”:

“The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of that security effort should, as your government has stated, be a security, rather than a political, barrier. It should be temporary rather than permanent, and, therefore, not prejudice any final status issues, including final borders.”

Mr. Bush says he looks forward to the day when Israelis and Palestinians can discuss final status issues:

“There’s a lot of work to be done prior to getting there. And what the Prime Minister [Sharon] has done is started the process.”

Now, says President Bush, it’s up to “responsible Palestinians, caring Europeans, Americans, the United Nations to. . .help develop” a Palestinian state that can be peaceful and prosperous.