U.S. President George W. Bush said after meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening that the unauthorized settlement outposts established in the West Bank had "to go." Regarding the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the American leader said that while the United States was willing to help the two sides reach an agreement, peace meant concessions from both.
Speaking first at the press conference that followed their two hour-meeting, Olmert said that both Israelis and Palestinians are very seriously trying to move forward to realize a vision of a two-state solution. He said Israel was serious about implementing the road map peace plan for creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
"Both sides, I believe, are very seriously trying to move forward in order to realize the vision of two states living side by side in peace," Olmert said.
But, referring to a Qassam rocket barrage on southern Israel on Wednesday, the prime minister said there will be no peace unless Palestinians terror is stopped. "Gaza is part of a package," he said. "There will be no peace unless terror is stopped - and stopped everywhere."
Earlier, Bush said he had come to the region with high hopes that a Middle East peace deal could be achieved before he leaves office at the end of the year. "I come as an optimistic person and a realistic person - realistic in my understanding that it's vital for the world to fight terrorists to confront those who would murder the innocent to achieve political objectives," Bush told Israeli President Shimon Peres during a meeting in Jerusalem. "I come with high hopes, and the role of the United States will be to foster a vision of peace. The role of the Israeli leadership and the Palestinian leadership is going to do the hard work necessary to define a vision," Bush said.
Regarding Iran, which Israel and the United States accuse of developing a nuclear weapons program, Bush said that "the international community must understand with clarity the threat Iran poses to world peace." While the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released last month said that Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003, Bush said that that "the Iranians had a covert military program that was suspended... I interpreted the NIE to mean you should take Iran seriously."