WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush will attempt to build a relationship with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas based on a shared commitment to democratic practices, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday.
She said Bush will attempt to build a relationship with Abbas based on “the kind of connection only leaders with democratic goals can have.” Abbas is set to meet with Bush on Thursday in Washington.
Rice told thse attending the AIPAC Policy Conference that the U.S. made a mistake five years ago by seeking a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians before development of democratic institutions in the Palestinian territories.
“America and Israel tried before to have peace before democracy was there, and we are not going down that road again,” Rice said.
She praised the Palestinian people for trying to meet that democratic challenge by voting for Abbas, who she said rejects violence.
But she said the Palestinians must continue with their democratic reforms, and “dismantle all terrorist networks that threaten its society.”
But Rice gently warned Israel against making “permanent moves” that might threaten progress on the road map. She did not mention anything specific, but seemed to be referring to Israeli plans to expand the town of Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, by building 3,500 apartments between the two cities.
Rice’s speech before the sympathetic crowd was short on specifics, and relatively brief. Other than the Israeli-Palestinian situation, she said:
• Syria must remove its intelligence forces from Lebanon along with the soldiers it has recently removed.
• Arab states must end incitement in their media, cut off terror funding, and establish broader relationships with Israel.
• The world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon, nor tolerate Iran’s attempts to “subvert democratic efforts through terrorism.