Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It's hard to know what to think about President Bush's statements today on the first day of his first visit to the Middle East as president. Bush said he believes Israel and the Palestinian Authority will sign an agreement leading to a Palestinian state this by the time his term ends next January, but also said the division of Palestinian territory precipitated by the extremist group Hamas could take longer than a year to resolve. These statements are contradictory, since Israeli leaders told Bush they would not agree to a deal without the Hamas question being resolved. Hamas, which refuses to accept the existence of the Jewish state, took control of the Gaza Strip in June after winning a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament at the ballot box. Bush met first with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres before heading over the Jordan River to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Ramallah compound where the Yasir Arafat was besieged by Israeli forces a few years ago, according to the Reuters international news service. Reuters said a poll by Israel's Yediot Ahronoth newspaper found that 77 percent of Israelis do not think Bush's visit will bring progress in the peace process.