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Bush blames Palestinians for Middle East deadlock

Zaterdag, Augustus 25, 2001 / Last Modified: Vrijdag, December 16, 2011

Bush blames Palestinians for Middle East deadlock

Reuters, August 25, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush on Friday blamed the Palestinians for
deadlock in the Middle East conflict and said their leader Yasser Arafat could
help stop the violence if he gave “a 100 percent effort.”

“The Israelis will not negotiate under terrorist threat. It’s as simple as that,” he
told a news conference in Texas, in language that put the burden for progress
toward talks squarely on Arafat’s shoulders.

“If they (the Palestinians) are that interested in peaceful dialogue they ought to
do everything they can to stop the terrorist activity that has accelerated in
recent months and we will see whether or not the will is there,” he said.

“I strongly urge Mr. Arafat to put 100 percent effort into stopping the
terrorist activity and I believe he can do a better job of doing that,” the
president added.

He added that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat should urge militants “to stop
the suicide bombings.”

In Beijing on Friday, Arafat accused the Israelis of blocking negotiations. “We
are ready at all times but they are refusing, as you know,” he told Reuters.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused political negotiations until the
Palestinians call off their uprising against Israeli occupation, in which almost
700 people have been killed in the last 11 months.

Bush said the United States was urging Sharon to show restraint in his handling
of the Palestinian uprising. He said at one point that both sides must resolve to
stop the violence.

But the thrust of his comments, especially on a United Nations racism
conference opening in Durban next week, was strongly sympathetic to the
Israeli point of view, even to the extent of blaming Palestinians for “incursions”
— the usual term for Israel military thrusts into Palestinian territory.

MITCHELL REPORT

Bush was answering a question on an Israeli army incursion deep into a
Palestinian-ruled part of the West Bank town of Hebron, where they blew up
two Palestinian houses.

The army said it was retaliating after snipers wounded an 11-year-old boy from
the city’s Jewish settler enclave.

Bush said: “I would hope that the Israelis would show restraint on all fronts. We
continue to urge restraint with both parties … It requires two willing
participants.”

He repeated the long-standing U.S. view that the best framework for progress
was the report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, which calls for a truce,
a cooling-off period and confidence-building measures leading to peace talks.

“But in order to get to Mitchell requires there to be a cessation of terrorist
activity — if not a cessation 100 percent effort to get to a cessation and we
haven’t seen that 100 percent effort yet,” he added.

“If they (the Palestinians) are that interested in peaceful dialogue they ought to
do everything they can to stop the terrorist activity that has accelerated in
recent months and we will see whether or not the will is there,” he said.

On the racism conference, he said the United States would not take part at all if
Arab and Muslim participants “pick on Israel” and say that Zionism is racism.

The South Africans have said the conference agenda no longer includes
language equating Zionism and racism. But draft resolutions contain language
on the Middle East conflict opposed by Israel and the United States.

A State Department official, speaking separately on the latest Middle East
violence, echoed Bush’s remarks on the need for Palestinian leaders to put an
end to violence.

But the official was more critical of Israel’s actions, saying they were
provocative and counterproductive.

“Israel has a responsibility to avoid actions that result in the deaths and injuries
of innocent people, undermine efforts to restore calm and exacerbate an already
volatile situation,” the official said.

“Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and the demolition of
Palestinian homes and property are provocative, do not stop the violence and
undermine efforts to defuse the situation,” the official added.

The contrast reflected a constant theme in U.S. policy on the Middle East,
where President Bush does not reflect criticism of Israel which appears in State
Department statements.

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