- JERUSALEM (AP) -- Palestinians
expressed disappointment today over remarks by US President George W Bush
after his meeting with Israel's prime minister.
- They complained Bush had come down on Israel's side on
the main issues.
- At a White House news conference after talks with Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Bush demanded that the Palestinians take concrete
steps to dismantle terrorist organisations, singling out the violent Islamic
- In his public remarks, Bush did not press Sharon to stop
building a security barrier between Israel and the West Bank and did not
press Israel to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
- Also today, the commander of the Israeli military warned
that a resumption of violence, reduced significantly by a Palestinian truce,
might be only days away.
- Israel and the Palestinians are vying for US backing
in negotiations over the US-backed roadmap peace plan.
- The Bush-Sharon meeting followed a summit on Friday between
the president and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Since then,
Palestinians had been saying that Bush accepted the Palestinian stand on
- However, after the Bush-Sharon meeting, Palestinian lawmaker
Saeb Erekat complained that Bush took the Israeli line.
- Erekat was disappointed that Bush did not dictate a time
line for implementing the points of the peace roadmap which begins with
a halt to nearly three years of violence and leads through three stages
to a Palestinian state in 2005.
- "Time is of the essence and time is running out,"
Erekat said. He also criticised Bush for failing to come out in public
against the security barrier.
- "I had hoped that Mr Bush would stand there next
to Sharon and tell him stop it, stop building the wall," Erekat said.
- Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip
for a state, but the proposed route of the wall cuts deeply into the West
Bank in some places to include Jewish settlements on the Israeli side.
The Israelis say the wall is necessary to keep Palestinian bombers out
of Israel, but Sharon said efforts would be made to keep disruptions of
Palestinian lives to a minimum.
- Bush said several times that the Palestinians must dismantle
terror groups, mentioning Hamas by name.
- Abbas has refused to order a crackdown or a confrontation,
fearing a civil war; preferring instead to end violence through agreement,
like the current ceasefire.
- However, Bush was adamant, repeating the roadmap language
that calls for dismantling the violent groups.
- In Gaza, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi dismissed Bush's
- "The Bush statement reflects the total bias of the
United States in favour of the Zionist enemy," Rantisi said, "and
it reflects also the failure of Prime Minister Abbas' visit to Washington".
- Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr thanked Bush
for his support for a Palestinian state but called on the United States
"to exert more pressure in controlling the Israeli policy in the Palestinian
- Though it is not part of the roadmap, Palestinians have
been pressing Israel to release many of the approximately 7,700 prisoners
it is holding, but Bush said Israel should not be asked to free Palestinians
who might return to terrorism.
- He said Sharon should work to "release those prisoners
that won't create the conditions of terror".
- Erekat said Israel should respond to a reduction in violence
by declaring an amnesty for all prisoners, pledging that no prisoners will
remain in Israeli hands when the Palestinian state is created in 2005,
according to the roadmap.
- Violence remained at a low ebb through Sharon's eighth
visit to Washington since Bush took office.
- Several of Sharon's trips have been disrupted by Palestinian
attacks in Israel.
- On June 29, Islamic groups called a three month truce
and Fatah, headed by Yasser Arafat and Abbas, declared a six month halt
in attacks against Israelis.
- The Israeli military commander, Lieutenant General Moshe
Yaalon, warned that the truce might soon end.
- Speaking at a processing centre for new army recruits,
Yaalon said that unless the militant groups were disarmed, "it's possible
that we will see a lull in violence for a certain period, perhaps even
a long period, but I will start to count the days until the outbreak of
the next wave of violence".
- Copyright 2003 News Limited.