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Bush Optimistic About Israeli-Palestinian Meeting

Bush Optimistic About Israeli-Palestinian Meeting

(White House Report, May 28, 2003: Middle East, Iran, Russia, Chile)

After announcing that President Bush would travel to Aqaba, Jordan on June 4 for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the White House called the prospect of the meetings "a positive development."

The message Bush will take to the trilateral meeting is the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working together to make progress on the "road map" -- a plan to allow Israel and a new Palestinian state to live side by side in peace and security -- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters May 28.

"The President's focus is on results," Fleischer said. "The President's focus is on the bottom line and working with people who can achieve results. And that's why the President looks forward to this meeting."

He said the meeting comes at "a hopeful moment," but added that the problem in the Middle East is "hopeful moments can get derailed." Fleischer said Bush is a president "who is determined to find these hopeful moments and make the most out of them."

"In the Middle East, where progress is often difficult, it's important to make the progress that can be made today, and not attempt to make too much of an attempt for progress, when that may be beyond reach immediately," Fleischer told reporters. "But it is important at the end of the day for the Arab world to recognize Israel and to welcome Israel and to allow Israel to live in security. And Israel needs to have good relations with its Arab neighbors."

The White House says Bush believes Abbas, the new representative of the Palestinian people, is a reformer who will work for peace and to put a stop to terrorism, unlike Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

"The President's views on Yasser Arafat are well-known and clear," Fleischer said. "I don't see any need to reiterate them. The President looks forward to the meeting with somebody who he believes is dedicated to peace."

"Certainly, I think when you talk about peace in the Middle East, stopping terror is a key part of it because so much of it does ride on security," Fleischer said. Bush will also stress the United States' commitment to Israel's security, he said.

"Clearly, in an atmosphere of violence and killing, it is much harder to reach peace agreements when people are dying on a regular basis as a result of homicide bombers," Fleischer said.

Considering the history of the Middle East, Fleischer said he's not prepared to make any predictions. "What you are going to see is a president who is hard at work at finding a way for concrete results to follow in terms of the implementation of the road map, where the initial phase focuses on security and improved treatment of Palestinians. That's where it begins."

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