U.S. President George W. Bush reiterated Israel and the U.S. administration demand for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to fight the Palestinian resistance groups and disarm them.
Bush’s demands to Abbas were presented in the meeting that joined them in the Oval Office in the White House.
‘The way forward must begin by confronting the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine,’ Bush said.
Speaking at a joint news conference after a one-hour meeting, Bush said the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank last month had created new opportunities.
Abbas on the other hand focused on the need to end the Israeli occupation to Palestine and consequently the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
He said that the time had come to ‘put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,’ and asserted that the PA has taken steps to impose the rule of law and public order.   Abbas stressed in his speech that election of a Palestinian legislature next January would establish one law to govern the area.
Abbas reiterated the Palestinian ‘commitment to peace,’ but warned that the movement toward democracy in the Palestinian areas could flag in the face of the ongoing occupation and ‘the absence of freedom.’
Abbas asserted that the Palestinian people are making serious effort towards peace and are willing again to give the political process a chance.
‘We are following a policy I believe is successful,’ he said. ‘All organizations accepted the Hudna [temporary truce], then we moved to the next stage – to ban public demonstrations of weaponry, to make all groups part of Palestinian politics.’
‘We were promised peace, independence and freedom, and I hope we will achieve this,’ he added.
Bush, on the other hand, said that the United States would use its influence to help ‘realize a shared vision of two democratic states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.’
The president had criticism for Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian areas, saying Israel ‘should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations,’ a reference to the Middle East peace plan devised by the Quartet of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
The Road Map calls for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, whereas, the expansion of settlements and the construction of the separation wall on the West Bank land hinder reaching this objective.
Without elaboration, the president said Israel would be ‘held to account’ for any actions that hamper peacemaking or burden the lives of Palestinians.
He called on Israel to stop constructing settlements on the West Bank. Abbas, in response, insisted on Israel lifting curbs on Palestinian travel in the West Bank, saying they had turned the lives of Palestinians into ‘daily hardship and humiliation.’
Few hours prior to Abbas-Bush meeting, an Israeli official said Abbas must be confined if he does not fight the resistance groups.
Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said that if Abbas did not fight the resistance groups, Israel should restrict him to the Muqata, referring to the PA headquarters in Ramallah.
‘Either he fights terror and disarms the organizations, or Israel will behave toward him as it did toward his predecessor and isolate him in the Muqata,’ said Steinitz.
Israel kept Abbas’ predecessor, the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, trapped in the Muqata for almost three years until his death in November 2004, accusing him of supporting armed groups that fight Israel.