01/10/2008, 00.00
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Peace between Israel and Palestine in 2008, says Bush

by Joshua Lapide
US president appears “impatient” and eager for a peace treaty before the end of his mandate. Both Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Omert face “difficult choices.”

Ramallah (AsiaNews) – US President George W. Bush predicted a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine by the end of the year. At a press conference with his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, the US leader said: “I believe it's possible—not only possible, I believe it's going to happen—that there be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office (in January 2009). That's what I believe.”

The US president is currently on a state visit to Israel and the West Bank pushing forth the agenda set at the Annapolis Middle East peace conference held last November.

In the joint press conference, President Abbas repeated Palestinian demands: a single Palestinian state with “Jerusalem as its capital and an end to the refugee problem, in accordance with UN decisions.”

As sponsor of the Annapolis conference the United States has called on Israelis to freeze their settlement activities in the Occupied Territories and on the Palestinians to improve security and stop terrorist attacks.

Bush deplored Hamas’ attitudes, saying that it “has delivered nothing but misery.”

The US president also said that in “order for there to be lasting peace, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have to come together and make tough choices,"”

Those who met him Wednesday said that he appeared “impatient” and eager for achievements. But it is still a long road to peace.

Abbas is still unable to influence events in Gaza where Hamas rules and from where rockets are launched against Israeli civilians.

Olmert in turn is faced with a possible revolt within his own ruling coalition with some parties opposed to any “concessions” to the Palestinians on the issues of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

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