President Bush discussed an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and isolating Iran in interviews before his Mideast visit.
Bush, who this week makes his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as U.S. president, said in an interview Sunday on Israel’s Channel 2 that he wants to find agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the nature of a future Palestinian state, as well as a schedule for its founding.
Meanwhile Olmert, in a briefing to his Cabinet on Sunday, described Bush’s visit to the Jewish state and Palestinian Authority Jan. 9-11 as a momentous event.
“He visited Israel before he became president. This time he visits as president and, of course, we will welcome him with joy,” Olmert said, according to an official transcript of his Cabinet remarks. “This is a friendly president who admires and supports the State of Israel, and the State of Israel will certainly grant him the honor that such a visit deserves.”
The U.S. president will also travel to Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
In an interview with Al Arabiya TV, Bush said he would tell Israeli and Arab leaders that isolating Iran is still a priority. He acknowledged that his job would be made harder by the collective assessment published last month by U.S. intelligence agencies reporting that Iran had shut down a nuclear weapons program in 2003. Israel and Persian Gulf states are concerned that this signals a rolling back of U.S. commitment to isolating Iran.
In Israel, Bush will meet with Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.