Bush: Two-state solution will be realized
US president sums up eight years of Mideast affairs with optimism: 'Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs recognize creation of peaceful, democratic Palestinian state is in their interests' though Iran, Syria still sponsoring terror, he says
WASHINGTON – US President George W. Bush summed up eight years of his administration's affairs in the Middle East on Friday, and said he still believed that "the day will come when the map of the Middle East shows a peaceful, secure Israel beside a peaceful and democratic Palestine."
In his speech to the annual Saban Forum, a gathering on Middle East policy sponsored by the Brookings Institution, Bush described his achievements in the region over the two terms he has served.
"I was the first American President to call for a Palestinian state, and building support for the two-state solution has been one of the highest priorities of my Presidency. To earn the trust of Israeli leaders, we made it clear that no Palestinian state would be born of terror," he said.
"We backed Prime Minister Sharon’s courageous withdrawal from Gaza, and we supported his decision to build a security fence, not as a political border but to protect his people from terror."
Regarding the Palestinian demands Bush said, "To help the Palestinian people achieve the state they deserve, we insisted on a Palestinian leadership that rejects terror and recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Now that this leadership has emerged, we are strongly supporting its efforts to build the institutions of a vibrant democratic state."
He added, "The Palestinians are making progress toward capable security forces, a functioning legal system, government ministries that deliver services without corruption, and a market economy.
"In all our efforts to promote a two-state solution, we have included Arab leaders from across the region, because their support will be essential for a lasting peace."
Bush said there was now an international consensus on the issues that plague the region. "Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs recognize that the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state is in their interests.
"And through the Annapolis process, they have started down a path that will end with the two-state solution finally realized," he said.
However, Bush warned, two factors still threatened peace in the Middle East. "Iran and Syria continue to sponsor terror, Iran’s uranium enrichment remains a major threat to peace, and many in the region still live under oppression," he said.
"Yet the changes of the past eight years herald the beginning of something historic and new. At long last, the Middle East is closing a chapter of darkness and fear, and opening a new one written in the language of possibility and hope."
He added, "A free and peaceful Middle East will represent a source of promise, a home of opportunity, and a vital contributor to the prosperity of the world."
Bush ended the speech on an optimistic note: "The day will come when people from Cairo and Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut to Damascus and Tehran live in free and independent societies, bound together by ties of diplomacy, tourism, and trade."
"The day will come when al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas are marginalized and then wither away, as Muslims across the region realize the emptiness of the terrorists’ vision and the injustice of their cause," he said.
"If we lead, and we persevere, and we keep faith in our ideals, it is a vision that will become reality," the president concluded.