Bush: 'Israel must treat minorities better'

US president concludes trip to Israel with visit to Bible Lands Museum; says peace in region possible.

Bush students 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bush students 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
US President George W. Bush wrapped up his two-day visit to Israel Friday with a tour and discussion with a group of Israeli youth leaders at the Bible Lands Museum. "What's on my mind is peace," Bush told the group. "I believe it's possible. I know it will happen when young people put their minds together." According to the youngsters, Bush also said that just as the US has changed its treatment of minorities, he hoped that Israeli society could also change the way it treats its minorities. Following the discussion, the US president was flown by helicopter from Givat Ram in Jerusalem to Ben-Gurion Airport. At the airport, President Shimon Peres said that Bush's visit had generated much excitement, the like of which Israel hasn't experienced for many years. "The State of Israel seemed to have forgotten how to get excited," Peres told Israel Radio. He said it was an exciting week from many perspectives, stressing that the Bush visit and the "Facing Tomorrow" conference, were a successful hasbara (public diplomacy) coup for Israel and demonstrated the country's recent impressive developments. Peres went on to say that he was a little surprised by the US president's Knesset speech on Thursday in with he came out so staunchly in support of Israel. "If any Israeli has any doubt to the value of Bush's remarks, he should try and listen to them with Arab ears, then he will understand the power of the speech," said the president. Peres said Bush's message to terrorists was crystal clear. "The message was that we are not scared of you, we are more than you, we are stronger than you and don't think you can do whatever you want. The strongest message was that we are 307 million, not two isolated nations of 7 million and 300 million." "Don't forget," continued Peres, "he is now going to Saudi Arabia, an Arab country. He knows exactly to whom his words are directed," adding that "he sent a strong and unequivocal message of peace." Peres said that he asked Bush to pass on a message to King Abdullah that Israel believed his proposal for a three-way religious summit was of vital importance.