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Israel, US Agree on Security Issues during Bush Visit


Israel is hailing last week's visit by U.S. President George Bush as a success with regard to key policy issues. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel and the United States agreed to a common front on terrorism and regional security.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet that Israel and the United States see eye to eye.

Mr. Olmert said that during his visit last week, President Bush promised not to push Israel into a peace agreement until the Palestinians keep their commitments under the "Roadmap" peace plan and fight terrorism. The prime minister said Israel and the United States agree that the Palestinians must crack down on militant groups in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That will be especially hard for U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to achieve. Mr. Abbas controls the West Bank, but he lost control of Gaza last June, when his Fatah forces were routed by Hamas, an Islamic militant group that refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

Mr. Olmert also responded to Mr. Bush's public demand that Israel must keep its Roadmap commitments and dismantle 100 illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank. In an unusually candid comment, the prime minister was quoted as saying that Israel's failure to act against the outposts until now is a "disgrace."

On another key issue, Mr. Olmert praised President Bush's stand on Iran, a country that has threatened to wipe the Jewish state "off the map."

He said Mr. Bush sees Iran as a major regional threat, despite the recent U.S. intelligence report that Teheran halted its nuclear-weapons program four years ago. The prime minister said even though Mr. Bush only has a year left in office, the president remains committed to Israel's security and will do all he can to remove the Iranian threat.


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