Bush Arrives in Israel to Begin Mideast Tour
Meanwhile President Bush arrived in Israel today where he begins his week-long Middle East tour. It’s Bush’s first visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories during his time in the White House. Bush says he’s come to the region to help revive peace talks launched out of November’s U.S.-brokered summit in Annapolis. Bush is expected to visit the West Bank tomorrow. His tour won’t include the Gaza Strip, now under control of Hamas. On Tuesday, thousands of Palestinians marched in Gaza to protest Bush’s visit. Israel has launched a series of attacks on Gaza over the past week. One man, Hamdan Fayyad, lost his wife and two children to Israeli gunfire.
bq. Hamdan Fayyad: “I tell Bush, the weapon factories in which you are an artist in perfecting the weapons and then you send them to Israel, or what some call Israel, you send it to them so that they can kill the Palestinian people,
especially the innocent, and as I heard and understood, this weapon is internationally banned.”
Peace Group: Israel Seeking to Bar Release of Settlement Report
On the eve of Bush’s arrival, Israeli and Palestinian leaders announced they’ve authorized a new round of talks on key final-status issues. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the talks will include the status of Jerusalem and the Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank.
Saeb Erekat: “It was agreed that Mr. Abu Ala, and Ms. Livni will begin immediately the deliberations, and will use any experts of their choice, on all the core issues, hoping to have the year 2008 as the year to reach the peace treaty between the two sides.”
Bush’s trip comes amidst news the Israeli government is trying to block the publication of a key report detailing its expanding settlement activity in the West Bank. According to the Israeli group Peace Now, the confidential 2006 report provides the Israeli government’s most comprehensive analysis to date of settlement activity beyond its internationally-recognized borders. The report is said to detail widespread expansion in dozens of settlements, which Israel vowed to stop under the U.S.-backed Road Map.