April 22, 2004.
The US president has defended Israel’s plan to leave Gaza and parts of the
West Bank, which he backed last week.
“ Ariel Sharon said ‘We are pulling out’,” George
W Bush said in Washington.
“The whole world should have said, ‘Thank you, Ariel; now we have a
chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state’,” he said.
Mr Bush sparked anger in the Arab world by saying Israel could keep some land
it seized in the 1967 war.
Decrying the refusal of the most governments to follow his lead, the US
president said: “Yes, there was kind of silence, wasn’t there? Because the
responsibility is hard.”
Mr Bush also criticised the Palestinian leadership, saying it had “failed the
people, year after year after year”.
“Now is the time… to build a Palestinian state that’s committed to the
principles of individual rights, and rule of law, and fairness, and justice,” he
Mr Bush’s latest remarks came in a conference of newspaper editors in
Washington. Apparently referring to Arab leaders, Mr Bush said: “It’s hard to be
responsible for promoting freedom and peace when you’re used to something
else. “If you don’t have the aspirations of the people firmly embedded in your
soul, it’s hard to take a gamble for peace.”