President Bush called on Israel not to hinder the development of a Palestinian security force.
Bush met Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the P.A. headquarters in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
“By any obvious measure, the Palestinian security forces are improving,” Bush said, standing on a podium with Abbas beneath a portrait of Yasser Arafat, Abbas’ predecessor whom Bush reviled as an enabler of terrorism. “My message to the Israelis is that they ought to help, not hinder, the modernization of a Palestinian security force.”
Israel has prevented P.A. security forces from receiving some equipment. It wants assurances that the force is fully professional, noting the involvement in the past of some P.A. troops in attacks on Israel.
Bush’s West Bank foray, which included a stop at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, came on the second day of an eight-day tour throughout the region to encourage the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. His first day was spent with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.
Asked what he thought about the West Bank checkpoints he saw as he traveled from Jerusalem to Ramallah, Bush said he could understand the frustrations they created for Palestinians but also understood why Israel needed such checkpoints for security.