Bush, Abbas Collide over 'Road Map' Obstacles

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 26, 2003 | Go to article overview

Bush, Abbas Collide over 'Road Map' Obstacles


Byline: Joseph Curl, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas yesterday charged that Israel's failure to stem violence threatens prospects for peace in the Middle East, but President Bush in a sharp retort said terrorism is the biggest obstacle.

Mr. Abbas, meeting for the first time at the White House with the president, said the ambitious multinational "road map" to peace laid out with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot be achieved "if Israel continues to grab Palestinian land."

"If the settlement activities in Palestinian land and construction of the so-called 'separation wall' on confiscated Palestinian land continue, we might soon find ourselves at a situation where the foundation of peace, a free Palestine state, living side-by-side in peace and security in Israel is a factual impossibility," Mr. Abbas said.

"We have succeeded significantly, where Israel with its military might has failed, in reducing violence," added Mr. Abbas, who replaced Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian Authority's chief international negotiator.

Mr. Bush expressed little patience for a return to the kind of violence that has ripped the Middle East for nearly three years.

"I'm going to tell you point-blank that we must make sure that any terrorist activity is rooted out in order for us to be able to deal with these big issues," Mr. Bush told Mr. Abbas in a Rose Garden appearance.

"Nobody is going to accept a situation in which they become less secure, whether it be the Palestinian people or the Israeli people. Security is the essential roadblock to achieving the road map to peace."Mr. Abbas is the Palestinian leader supported by the United States and Israel, but is losing confidence within the Palestinian parliament, which could unseat him. He came to Washington in pursuit of U.S. support for Israeli concessions.

"For the sake of peace and for the sake of future Palestinian and Israeli generations, all settlement activities must be stopped now," Mr. Abbas said, and the wall Israel is constructing to divide it from Palestinian areas should be dismantled.

While Mr. Bush reiterated his strong support for Mr. Abbas, the prime minister appeared to have failed in his mission.

Mr. Bush did not express support for a freeze on settlements, although he did repeat his position that Israel begin dismantling unauthorized villages in Palestinian territory.

"I've constantly spoken out for the need to end the settlements ... and we'll continue to work with both sides on this very sensitive issue," he said. "This is necessary."

Mr. Bush did not join Mr. Abbas in calling for Israel to remove the wall. He did say, however, that the security boundary around large sections of Palestinian territory, ostensibly to protect Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks, was a "problem."

"It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and ... Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank," Mr. Bush said. "And I will continue to discuss this issue very clearly with the prime minister" of Israel, who visits the White House on Tuesday. …

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