Saturday, July 26, 2003

The president suggested that he was supportive of the Palestinians on one topic raised by Mr. Abbas: Israel's construction of a security fence that is cutting into Palestinian areas on the West Bank. But he said the onus was on Mr. Abbas to clamp down on terrorist activities by Palestinian groups, and he rebuffed calls by Palestinians for Israel to release as many as 6,000 prisoners it is holding, many accused by Israel of taking part in terrorist activities...

Mr. Bush said prisoner release should be considered case by case. "But I would never ask anybody in any society to let a prisoner out who would then commit terrorist actions," he said.

The president also indicated that while he would push Israel to adhere to the requirement of the road map that it dismantle recently built Jewish settlements, he also saw resolution of the broader issue of the settlements as dependent on Mr. Abbas's ability to curb terrorism.

"I've constantly spoken out about the end of settlements," Mr. Bush said, apparently referring to the required dismantling of settlements established since March 2001, when Mr. Sharon took office. "And I'm going to tell you point-blank that we must make sure that any terrorist activity is rooted out, in order for us to be able to deal with these big issues."


Most of this is pretty positive, I think. The remarks on prisoner releases are extremely encouraging, it seems that the president has seen that such action would be counterproductive in every possible way. My only major objection here is to the security fence. I think the fence is essential to Israel's security, especially considering that I am not optimistic about the Road Map's possibilities of long term success. The Palestinians object to the fence because a.) it cuts them off from Israel's economy, which, even though they hate and despise Israel, they want to benefit from, and b.) it cuts off their ability to renew te violence should negotiations fail to fulfill their demands, an option I think they still want to preserve. I can't see any objection to the security fence that is not ultimately misguided or deliberately disengenuous. I think Bush objects to it because he doesn't want Israel defining its possible future border unilaterally, which is precisely why I'm in favor of it.

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