President Bush says Israeli and Palestinian leaders must show the will to bring violence to a halt. Mr. Bush says there must be a conscious decision to stop terrorism.
The President says the United States is doing all it can to help break the cycle of violence. But he says the ultimate responsibility lies with the Israelis and the Palestinians. "It is so important for there to be the will, the desire. It requires," Mr. Bush said, "two parties to make the conscious decision that we are going to do everything we can to stop terrorism."
Speaking to reporters in Texas, Mr. Bush urged European and moderate Arab leaders to play a more aggressive role in the peace process. The president also rejected criticism of his Middle East policy from those who say the administration's involvement in the region amounts to too little, too late. "We have been engaged in the Middle East ever since I got sworn in as President," Mr. Bush said. "Ours is the administration that sent George Tenet to the Middle East to lay out a platform for discussions among security forces to bring peace to the region. We wholeheartedly endorse the Mitchell Report."
But the cease-fire brokered by CIA Director Tenet is in tatters. And the blueprint for peace drafted by a commission led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell is on hold. Instead, blood continues to be spilled on both sides.
Two suicide bombings in four days in Israel have increased tensions yet again. The President called the acts of terrorism despicable. And as he spoke, there was a hint of frustration in his voice. He was asked if the Israelis have shown enough restraint. "I appreciate the fact that they do show a moderate restraint," Mr. Bush said. "Sometimes they haven't. Sometimes they have."
President Bush went on to say Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has not done enough to stop terrorism. "I think he can do a lot more to be convincing the people on the street to stop these acts of terrorism and violence," Mr. Bush said. "I've said in the Oval Office that it is very important for Mr. Arafat to show 100 percent effort."
Mr. Bush avoided a direct answer when asked if he plans to invite Yasser Arafat to the White House. The President said he will ask the respective parties to meet with him at the appropriate time.