George W. Bush has told Palestinians he believes that within a year they will sign a treaty with Israel to give them their own state. The US leader predicted a deal would be reached before he leaves the White House. Challenging sceptics, he delivered the message on his first presidential visit to the occupied West Bank, following talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Bush, who met Israeli premier Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, acknowledged that reaching a deal won’t be easy. “In order for there to be lasting peace, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have to come together and make tough choices and I am convinced they will,” he told a news conference at the Muqata compound in Ramallah. “And I believe it is possible, not only possible, I believe it is going to happen that there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office. That is what I believe.”
Not everyone in Ramallah offered the US leader a warm welcome. A small anti-Bush protest was broken up by security forces. And locals complained about disruption, given the tight security surrounding the president’s visit.
Bush has named Lt. Gen. William Fraser to monitor the long-stalled “road map” peace plan. And, a devout Christian, he visited Christ’s traditional birthplace, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, saying his soul was uplifted.