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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Bush Says WHAT?! World Owes Israel's Sharon a 'Thank You'

Reuters: President Bush on Wednesday rejected international condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and said world leaders owed him a "thank you" for his plans for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

In addition to backing Sharon's Gaza pullout plan in a historic U.S. policy shift, diplomatic sources said Bush and Sharon had settled most of their differences over Israel's barrier in the West Bank, once derided by the U.S. president as "a wall snaking through" Palestinian areas and a threat to peace efforts.

The shift came after Sharon agreed to modify the route of the barrier in certain areas to address U.S. concerns it intruded too deeply into Palestinian areas. "The fence is no longer an issue," a diplomatic source said.

Speaking to newspaper editors in Washington, Bush blasted the Palestinian leadership as having "failed the people, year after year after year" by not preventing terrorism against the Jewish state.

Bush sparked a backlash in the Arab world last week by endorsing Israel's right to hold on to some West Bank settlements on land captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

He also said a right of return by Palestinian refugees to Israel was unrealistic.

"Ariel Sharon came to America, and he stood up with me and he said, 'We are pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank,"' Bush told a newspaper conference in Washington.

In "my judgment, the whole world should have said, 'Thank you, Ariel. Now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state,"' Bush added.

Lamenting the response to Sharon's initiatives, Bush said: "Yes, there was kind of silence, wasn't there? Because the responsibility is hard."

ARAB REACTION

Bush's support for Sharon may have gone over well with conservative and Jewish voters in the U.S. presidential election, but it inflamed the Arab world.
It's not Bush, it's those burning tires . . .

UPDATE: The full text of the President's remarks are available online, from the White House.
"It's amazing that we're growing in spite of the fact that we've been through a recession, a war, an emergency and corporate scandals."

I was thinking that myself. Is it any shock that the economy lost so many jobs, given 9/11? That attack was meant to harm, among other things and people, our economy. And it did. But that's not Bush's fault, it's the terrorists' -- and they should be held responsible, their rage notwithstanding.