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Bush, Israel's Olmert Express Support for Two-State Solution

19 June 2007

Leaders also pledge support for Palestinian leader Abbas, aid shipments

Washington -- The United States and Israel support the creation of a Palestinian state that would live side by side in peace with Israel, President Bush says.

Speaking to reporters prior to a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert June 19, Bush said their countries share "a common vision, a vision that speaks to hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people, and a vision that speaks to the security of Israel."

“We share a common way forward, and our hope is that others in the region understand that this way forward leads to peace,” Bush said.

Olmert's visit was scheduled months in advance, but the agenda was dominated by the recent violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas militants. In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the “unity government” with Hamas and formed a new West Bank-based “emergency government” headed by independent former World Bank economist Salam Fayyad.

Bush praised Abbas, calling him a “voice of moderation” and “the president of all the Palestinians.” Olmert pledged “to make every possible effort to cooperate with him [Abbas] and to look forward to see how things can be worked jointly in order to provide the Palestinians with a real, genuine chance for a state of their own.”

Olmert pledged to initiate a new round of regular direct talks with Abbas aimed at security issues and improving the delivery of essential services to the Palestinian people as a precursor to new progress toward the “two-state solution” long advocated by the Bush administration.

“This is the ultimate goal, to create a Palestinian state,” Olmert said. “We have to prepare the groundwork that will allow -- soon, I hope -- to be able to start serious negotiations about the creation of a Palestinian state.”

Bush added: “We want to have a vision for the Palestinians to see that there's a better tomorrow for them.  These folks have been denied, for a long period of time, the right to a normal life.”

The conflict between Fatah and Hamas, Bush said, highlights the ideological struggle between the forces of violence and moderation confronting many across the Middle East, from Iraq to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories.

“We face extremists and radicals who use violence and murder as a tool to achieve objectives,” Bush said. This situation requires “a common strategy to fight off those extremists and to promote an alternative ideology based upon human liberty and the human condition and freedom,” he said.

The international community, Bush said, has a clear obligation to redouble its efforts to support leaders such as Abbas and promote democratic reforms as a foundation for future peace and security in the region.

“They need help to build the institutions necessary for democracy to flourish,” Bush said. “They need help to build security forces so that they can end up enforcing what most of the people want, which is to live in peace."

The United States is deeply committed to helping people in the region realize the benefits of democracy, White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters later in the day.

“What we are trying to do within the Middle East is to figure out ways to empower those who are pursuing democracy," Snow said. "And we certainly have come to their aid when we can and when it is necessary.”

Bush and Olmert also pledged to support aid shipments to address the humanitarian situation facing the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, whose borders with Egypt and Israel have remained sealed since the Hamas takeover.

In a June 18 press conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that $40 million in new U.S. aid for Palestinians will be delivered through the United Nations, bypassing Hamas. (See related article.)

The leaders also dismissed a recent proposal for U.S.-brokered direct talks between Israel and Syria, whose support of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the region long has been a concern for Washington. Should Israel deem such talks to be in its interests, Bush said, Israel should pursue them alone.

“They can handle their own negotiations with Syria,” Bush said.  “If the prime minister wants to negotiate with Syria, he doesn’t need me to mediate.”

For additional details, see the transcript of the press event.

For more information, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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