Bush and Peres keep up optimism about peace

Peres to reporters: "I found him to be more optimistic than I anticipated."

peres 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
peres 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
US President George W. Bush and President Shimon Peres share an unflagging optimism about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Although there have been quite a few bumps on the path to peace and the road map plan as laid down by Bush in 2002 has largely been ignored, Peres and Bush both said in Jerusalem on Wednesday that there would be definite signs of progress, even if there was no peace treaty, by the time that Bush leaves office in January 2009. Bush and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Peres prior to Israel's gala salute to the United States in appreciation of 60 years of support and friendship. Peres later told reporters: "I found him to be more optimistic than I anticipated. Here in Israel we're expecting to see change in America, while in America they're expecting to see change in the Middle East." The two presidents agreed that a lot depended on Syria, and whether Damascus changed its attitude or absolutely threw in its lot with Iran. Bush told Peres that his focus during the period he had left in office would be to make the world a safer place. The US president expressed interest in the "Peace Valley" proposed by Peres and said economic cooperation among Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians would benefit all the parties. Rice said that because Israel was so small, it was imperative that all three entities cooperate on economic, ecological and water issues. Peres told Bush that if Hizbullah took over Lebanon, Lebanon would become an Iranian satellite. He reiterated what he told Bush previously, that Iranian nuclear arms would endanger not only Israel but the whole world. Yet despite the Iranian nuclear threat, Peres said he would not accept any pessimism about the Middle East. Everyone concerned would just have to work harder for peace, he said, adding that Israel was willing to enter into a deep economic relationship with the Palestinians to improve the quality of their lives and to give them the opportunity to live in dignity. Concurrent with the struggle for peace, the two presidents said, their countries must not give up on the war against terrorism. Hamas, Hizbullah and al-Qaida were all terrorist organizations, said Bush, and must be dealt with appropriately.