Bush meets Olmert, calls for negotiations with Abbas
President Bush on Tuesday hailed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan for a unilateral redrawing of West Bank borders, saying it could be "an important step toward the peace we both support." Bush said a negotiated agreement "best serves Israelis and Palestinians and the cause of peace."
According to the AP, Bush also urged Israel to reach out to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an alternative to dealing with the Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet. Abbas "speaks out for peace and negotiations," Bush said.
Bush and Olmert called Abbas a man of peace.
Under his plan, Olmert aims at removing isolated Israeli settlements in the West Bank while defending major enclaves Israel intends to keep.
Any final peace agreement must be the product of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Bush said, but "the prime minister's ideas could be an important step toward the peace we both support." Olmert said he would proceed with his plan "in the event that all other options may not be possible."
As to Hamas' parliamentary election victory in the Palestinian territories, Bush said, "Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist, must abandon terror, must accept all previous agreements." "No country can be expected to make peace with those who deny its right to exist, and who use terror to attack its population," he said.
Olmert said that if Hamas abandons its refusal to recognize Israel and its embrace of violence, "they will find us a willing partner in peace."