'Hamas must recognize Israel'
In landmark speech, US President George W. Bush calls on Hamas to recognize the State of Israel; offers unprecedented financial and political support for West Bank government of Mahmoud Abbas; declares Mideast summit
Latest Update: 07.16.07, 20:45 / Israel News
US President George Bush has called on Hamas to recognize the State of Israel in a landmark speech on the Middle East Monday evening.
Bush used the speech to call for an international Mideast peace summit of Israelis, Palestinians, and representatives of neighboring states, to be chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"We will continue to deliver a firm message to Hamas. You must stop being a safe heaven for attacks against Israel. You must accept the legitimate Palestinian state. And you must reject violence and recognize Israel's right to exist and commit to previous agreements between the parties," Bush said.
"There is the vision of Hamas, which the world saw in Gaza… with summary executions.... By following this path the Palestinian people would guarantee chaos. They would surrender to Hamas' sponsors in Syria and Iran. And they would crush the possibility of a Palestinian state," Bush warned.
"There is another option, a hopeful option, of a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people," Bush said, adding that the Fatah government was "working to strengthen the security services to confront the terrorists and protect the innocent."
"By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and establish a state of their own," Bush added.
The US president went on to offer unprecedented levels of American financial and
political support for the West Bank Fatah government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad Salam. "By supporting the reforms of President Abbas and PM Fayyad, we help prove to the world, region, and Israel, that a Palestinian state would be a partner, not a danger," Bush said.
"The US is taking a series of steps to strengthen the forces of moderation and peace among the Palestinian people," he added, before announcing that "this year we will provide the Palestinian people with more than 190 million dollars, including for humanitarian work in Gaza." 228 million dollars have been earmarked by the US for loans for Palestinian businesses, Bush said, adding that a direct contribution will also be made to Palestinians to reform their security service, under US oversight.
Bush expressed hope that a strengthening of moderate forces among Palestinians would lead to the formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
"With all this assistance we are showing the Palestinian people that a commitment to peace leads to generous support by the US," he added.
'No future for Israel in West Bank'
Turning to the Israeli government, Bush said: "Israel has a clear path. Prime Minister Olmert must continue to release tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority."
"Prime Minister Olmert has made it clear that Israel's future is in development of Negev and Galilee, not through occupation in the West Bank," Bush said.
"The US will never abandon its commitment to Israel as a Jewish state and a homeland to the Jewish people," the US president vowed.
At the end of his speech, Bush announced "an international meeting this fall of representatives of nations that support two state solution and reject violence," adding that the key participants will be Israelis, Palestinians, and their neighbors in the region."
Israel 'satisfied with speech'
Following the speech, a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office expressed satisfaction over Bush's words.
The speech "charted out a route and definitely meets our expectations," noted the official.
"The subjects were pre-coordinated with us, but not the details. There's no doubt the speech confirms Israel's stance on most of the Palestinian issues. Dismantling illegal outposts also matches the stance of the prime minister and his party."
Referring to the conference announced by the US president, the aide said that Israel would be happy to see countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Morocco attending. "The conditions for participation are, of course, abiding by the Quartet's prerequisites, namely recognizing Israel, denouncing terror and honoring past agreements between Israel and the PLO."