The President of the United States of America, George Bush, arrived in Israel on Wednesday. His visit to Israel is the first since he took office seven years ago. Bush landed in the Israeli Ben-Gurion International Airport, where he was met by the Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Prime Minister Ehod Olmert.
In his welcoming speech, Bush said that this is a year for real peace not just talk. He also renewed his commitment to the Jewish Israeli state ‘The alliance between our two nations helps guarantee Israel’s security as a Jewish state’.
Initially Bush’s visit came after a demand made by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. Bush announced that his visit comes to push forward the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which was re-launched last November during the one day Annapolis conference that took place in Maryland, USA.
At the Annapolis conference Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed to restart the peace process based on the US-backed Road Map Peace Plan that was stopped for years.
The Road Map states that Israel should stop its attacks and settlement activities in Palestinian areas and in return the Palestinian Authority must stop the armed resistance against Israel. Israel continued its attacks and settlement activities in the Palestinian areas, leading the peace process to a deadlock, leaving the Palestinian president with one option which was to ask Bush for more involvement in the peace talks.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehod Olmert, told Bush at the airport ‘Your policies have reflected an understanding of the challenges facing Israel in this troubled region and a solid commitment to our national security.’ Olmert added ‘You’re our strongest and most trusted ally.’
Palestinian left wing opposition leaders, along with the Hamas movement which controls Gaza after a year long power struggle with President Abbas’ Fatah party, stated that Bush should stop the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian areas then talk about peace.
After the ceremony, the U.S. president met with Israeli President Peres. The meeting involved discussing ways to improve the Palestinian economy. Shortly after Bush met with Prime Minister Olmert and his Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, and Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. At the Olmert-Bush meeting, Olmert agreed to allow medicine and some food supplies to enter the Gaza Strip.
Israel placed the Gaza Strip under total siege six months ago leaving the Coastal region, the home of 1.5 million Palestinians, lacking food, water, medicine and electricity.
On Thursday Bush will visit the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah located in the south and central West Bank where he will meet the Palestinian President , Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials.