President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a joint news conference in Israel yesterday. Here are some excerpts from Mr. Bush’s statements and my comments. You can read the full text, including PM Olmert’s remarks, here.
PM Olmert with Presidents Bush and Peres
PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s essential that people understand America cannot dictate the terms of what a [Palestinian] state will look like. The only way to have lasting peace, the only way for an agreement to mean anything, is for the two parties to come together and make the difficult choices. But we’ll help, and we want to help. If it looks like there needs to be a little pressure, Mr. Prime Minister, you know me well enough to know I’ll be more than willing to provide it. I will say the same thing to President Abbas tomorrow, as well.
As if the application of pressure can be symmetrical! Pressure Mahmoud Abbas all he will, Mr. Bush cannot cause him to control Hamas or give up his demand for right of return. Can he even stop the terrorism his own al-Aqsa brigades and disarm all the gangs associated with Fatah? Maybe that should be a first requirement, before anything else.
In the rest of my trip I will be talking about the opportunity for Middle Eastern peace, and remind people in the neighborhood that if they truly want to see two states living side by side in peace, they have an obligation, Arab leaders have an obligation to recognize Israel’s important contribution to peace and stability in the Middle East, and to encourage and support the Palestinians as they make tough choices.
Why did he use the strange phrase “recognize Israel’s important contribution to peace and stability in the Middle East”? Why not just say recognize Israel as a legitimate state in the Middle East?
We also talked about Iran. Iran is a threat to world peace. There was a recent intelligence report that came out that I think sent the signal to some that said perhaps the United States does not view an Iran with a nuclear weapon as serious — as a serious problem. And I want to remind people, Mr. Prime Minister, what I said at the press conference when I discussed that National Intelligence Estimate. I said then that Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat, and Iran will be a threat if the international community does not come together and prevent that nation from the development of the know-how to build a nuclear weapon.
Mr. Bush no longer says that he will not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Now it’s the job of the “international community”.
A country which once had a secret program can easily restart a secret program. A country which can enrich for civilian purposes can easily transfer that knowledge to a military program. A country which has made statements that it’s made about the security of our friend, Israel, is a country that needs to be taken seriously. And the international community must understand with clarity the threat that Iran provides to world peace.
Quite right, as I wrote in my post, “The NIE: Read past the first line“. So why did the Bush Administration approve of the clear signal sent by the release of the NIE with its deliberately misleading implication that Iran was not a nuclear threat?
And we will continue to work with European countries, Russia and China, as well as nations in this neighborhood, to make it abundantly clear that — the threat that Iran poses for world peace.
But in effect, you already told them the opposite.
Let me remind you what the NIE actually said…So no matter how you might have interpreted the NIE, I interpreted it to mean you better take the Iranians’ threat seriously.
Then why was it released in the form that it was?
…I have always told the American people that I believe it’s incumbent upon the American President to solve problems diplomatically. And that’s exactly what we’re in the process of doing. I believe that pressure — economic pressure, financial sanctions — will cause the people inside of Iran to have to make a considered judgment about whether or not it makes sense for them to continue to enrich or face world isolation.
The US will not attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons by non-diplomatic means.
In response to a question about the lack of ‘progress’ from Annapolis:
You know, one of the concerns I had was that — whether it be the unprovoked rocket attacks or the issues of settlement, that the leaders would be so bogged down in the moment that they would lose sight of the potential for a historic agreement. And I’ve come away with the belief that while those issues are important, and certainly create consternation amongst the respective constituencies, that both leaders are determined to make the hard choices necessary.
First, settlements and rockets are in no way equivalent. Second, Mr. Abbas has no control over the rockets and cannot make a ‘hard decision’ about them.
You just heard the man [PM Olmert] talk about their desire to deal with core issues, which I guess for the uneducated on the issue, that means dealing with the issues like territory and right of return and Jerusalem. Those are tough issues — the issue of Israeli security. And they’re going to sit down at the table and discuss those issues in seriousness.
Does Mr. Bush take the ridiculous Palestinian demand for ‘right of return’ to Israel seriously? Let’s hope he’s talking about return to ‘Palestine’!
Settlements is a road map issue; security is a road map issue, in a certain limited sense.
I think he means that road map issues are those which need to be dealt with before creating the Palestinian state. I’m not sure what’s ‘limited’ about security — in my opinion, it is a far more pressing issue than settlements, which aren’t killing anybody.
…to help the Palestinians, one, organize their security forces so that they can better assure their own people, and equally importantly, better assure Israel that they can deal with the extremists in their midst. That’s what General Dayton is doing here, for example.
We always come to the part about the importance of building up the ‘security forces’. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to get rid of the terrorist elements of Fatah first before pumping more weapons into a society where AK-47’s are as common as brooms?
Listen, the best way to make sure that the Palestinians realize there’s a hopeful future in which it’s in their interests to live at peace with Israel is for them to realize that they’ve got an economy in which they can make a living. And Tony Blair is helpful on that. And so is America.
Keep the bribes coming, despite the fact that none of the billions of dollars of aid given to the Palestinians has ever been used to build economic infrastructure.
As to the rockets, my first question is going to be to President Abbas, what do you intend to do about them?…And what can we do to help you?
And what do you think the answer will be? More money, more weapons!
How Israel deals with the rocket attacks I would hope is done in a way that not only protects herself, but worries about innocent life. And I’m convinced the Prime Minister does. He understands he has an obligation to protect Israel. He also understands that he’s got to be circumspect and reasonable about how he does it, so that innocent people don’t suffer.
Olmert has a green light for targeted killings, but not for an invasion of Gaza.