President Bush is making a new push for Middle East peace. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports he is calling for an international conference this year to move the peace process forward, and is pledging to increase aid to the Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas.
President Bush is seeking to bolster Mahmoud Abbas and his government with diplomacy and aid.
"By supporting the reforms of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, we can help them show the world what a Palestinian state would look like and act like," he said. "We can help them prove to the world, the region and Israel that a Palestinian state would be a partner, not a danger."
Mr. Bush says the United States will sponsor an international conference later this year involving Israel, the Abbas-led government and other countries in the region that support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and reject violence. He says the goal is to bring the dream of a Palestinian state much closer to reality.
"Secretary [of State] Rice will chair the meeting," said Mr. Bush. "She and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions. They will look for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations."
President Bush is also promising more U.S. aid to "strengthen the forces of moderation and peace among the Palestinian people." He says about $190 million has been set aside this year, and that 80 million would go directly to the government of Mahmoud Abbas to help reform the Palestinian security services.
"With all this assistance, we are showing the Palestinian people that a commitment to peace leads to the generous support for the United States," he said.
In a roughly 20-minute speech from the White House, the president noted that aid to the Palestinians - except for certain humanitarian assistance - was cut off after the Islamic militant group Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006. It was restored recently after President Abbas, whose Fatah forces were routed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, replaced the Hamas prime minister.
Mr. Bush said it is clear the Palestinian people are at a crossroads in their history.
"This is a moment of clarity for all Palestinians and now comes a moment of choice," said the president.
He said the world must help show them the way.
"We must show that in the face of extremism and violence, we stand on the side of tolerance and decency," said Mr. Bush. "In the face of chaos and murder, we stand on the side of law and justice. And in the face of terror and cynicism and anger, we stand on the side of peace in the Holy Land."
The president said there is a great deal for all sides to do. He urged the Israelis to stop settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts in Palestinian territory. And he called on the Palestinian government to do all it can to confront terrorism and block attacks on Israel.