Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"I believe there will be a peace treaty by the time I leave office"

U.S. President George W. Bush says he believes Israeli and Palestinian leaders understand the importance of committing to the Middle East peace process and that he's confident there will be a signed deal by the time he leaves office early next year. (Article here)

That's a pleasant belief. Here is what has happened within days of this remarkable declaration:

clipped from

Gaza strike hardens Hamas position

Gaza City, Gaza -
Mahmoud Zahar struck a defiant tone when asked in an interview last week how long he thinks Hamas can maintain control in the face of an economic blockade and Israeli pressure.
"We have hard minds and hard wills. After we took control, Fatah and the Israelis thought we'd collapse within three months," he said. "All they are doing – the Americans, the Israelis – is intensifying hatred against them, while we are solidifying our position."
On Tuesday, the resolve of Mr. Zahar and his colleagues, who President George Bush, on a trip to Israel and the West Bank last week, insisted must be removed from power, was tested again: Israeli tanks and helicopters moved on militant positions in the territory, killing 17 Palestinians – among them Zahar's 24-year-old son, Hassam. Zahar's eldest son was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2003.

Faction pulls out of Israel government

Article here

JERUSALEM - A hawkish faction in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition pulled out of the government on Wednesday, weakening him at a time when he needs broad support to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians by the end of the year.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gestures as he speaks to Israeli Foreign Ministry personnel in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008. Israeli troops killed the son of Gaza's most powerful leader along with 18 other Palestinians Tuesday in the bloodiest day of fighting in the coastal area since Hamas militants seized control there last summer. (AP Photo/Olivier Fitoussi, Pool)

"Negotiations on the basis of land for peace is a fatal mistake," Avigdor Lieberman, head of the faction, told a news conference.

Lieberman's decision came just days after Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began tackling the core issues of their conflict — final borders, sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees who lost homes in Israel during the war that broke out following the Jewish state's creation in 1948.

"If we pull back to the 1967 borders, everyone should ask himself, what will happen the following day," Lieberman said. "Will the conflict stop, will the terror stop? Nothing will change."

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