As the Israeli state continues to expand at a growing rate into occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank, Palestinians have called on George Bush to be a voice of reason in asking Israel to cease its expansion.

Bush is visiting the region this week, in his first-ever visit to the Middle East as President of the U.S.  It is unlikely that he will demand that Israel freeze the building of settlements in the West Bank, despite the fact that the Israeli government pledged in several signed agreements to do exactly that.

 

Bush has long been a vocal supporter of Israel, and in 2003 issued a letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledging continued U.S. support for Israel, and giving tacit approval to Israel’s expansion policy.

 

The colonies in the West Bank currently house 500,000 Israeli, many of them new immigrants, and have displaced at least one million Palestinians.  These settlements, or colonies, are built in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory since 1954.

 

Bush will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, and will stay for three days.  He will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership separately, but will not meet with the elected government of the Palestinian people – the Hamas party.  Instead, he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his appointed advisors.  Abbas represents the government approved by Israel and the U.S. to govern the Palestinian people, despite the fact that his is an unelected government.

 

Ahmed Qureia, the Palestinian negotiator, and part of Abbas’ appointed cabinet, stated Monday, "Israel must stop these settlement activities and military aggressions so that 2008 can be the year of peace."

 

The Israeli government approved the construction of 1200 new units in Ma’ale Adumim settlement this year, and 300 new units in Har Homa settlement.  In addition, dozens of illegal outposts have been constructed while Israeli police and military continue to look the other way.  All of the settlements constructed by Israel on seized Palestinian land are in violation of international law, and have been condemned by numerous United Nations resolutions.

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