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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 00:23 GMT 01:23 UK
Violence delays Bush Mid-East plan
George W Bush
Bush's plan may end up satisfying neither side

For a man reluctant to get involved in the Israeli Palestinian conflict at the start of his presidency, George W Bush has come a long way.

With the world now awaiting his promised peace proposals, the president finds himself at the very heart of Middle East peacemaking.

It has been a slow process getting to this point and one that reflects his continuing reservations about US involvement.

The turning point was at last year's United Nations general assembly, when he became the first American president to support a two-state solution to the crisis: a Palestinian state living side by side and in peace with Israel.

What is expected from the president now is a road map of how to get there.

Contradictory counsel

Formulating the map has not been easy and has involved numerous visits to the White House by America's Arab allies and its closest ally in the region - Israel.

Their input, not surprisingly, has been contradictory.

The Palestinians and their Arab supporters have been insisting that only the rapid creation of a Palestinian state will end the violence.

From Israel the message has been that the pace must be slower, with interim agreements needed to test the Palestinians' good faith.

And then there is the pressure from Israel's supporters at home, both in Congress and among core Republican voters, who argue the president should not be seen to be rewarding Palestinian terrorism.

Plan delayed

Although the proposals have been a closely guarded secret so far, reports indicate the president is prepared to call for the recognition of a provisional Palestinian state in the months ahead on 40% of the West Bank and Gaza, with its final status and borders to be finalised within three years.

In return, the US will demand deep and wide-ranging reforms in the ways the Palestinians govern themselves - more democracy and the development of the kind of infrastructure that would deliver a better life for the ordinary Palestinians.

For their part, the Israelis will be asked to halt settlement activities, and the plan reportedly calls for an international conference to bless the deal sometime before the end of this year.

On the face of it at least, there is a chance the plan may end up satisfying neither Arabs nor Israelis - the timetable too slow to satisfy the Palestinians and their supporters, too fast for Israel and its backers.

For now, the president has been forced to put his planned announcement on hold by the very violence he is trying to stop.

And although the White House has insisted he is determined not to be held hostage by events on the ground, that is precisely what appears to be happening.

It is not perhaps an encouraging sign for the chances of any proposals succeeding once they have eventually been announced.

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See also:

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