US President George W. Bush believes Palestinians and Israelis will sign a peace treaty by the time he leaves the White House, a year from now. Speaking in Ramallah after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said he was confident that, with proper help, the state of Palestine would emerge.
Abbas urged his guest to press Israel to ease security restrictions in the occupied West Bank that Palestinians say cripple their society and economy. The Palestinian president also wants Jewish settlements halted. On day two of his first presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the US leader stressed that reaching a deal would not 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,” Bush told a joint news conference at the Muqata compound. “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.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza must stop. But the Strip is controlled by Hamas and its hostility to peace talks is a major obstacle to any deal.