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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 01:54 GMT
Bush uses strong language in Mid-East
By Jeremy Bowen
BBC Middle East Editor

George Bush in Ramallah
Mr Bush wants a peace deal signed by the time he leaves office in 2009
In Jerusalem, US President George W Bush has used some of his strongest language so far to describe the vision he says he has of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

At a news conference Mr Bush said there should be "an end to the occupation that began in 1967".

"The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people," he added.

Statement made, Mr Bush went to have dinner with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

The Israelis say they would not have chosen some of the language Mr Bush used - the word "occupation" is something with which Israeli governments have always had difficulties.

But they say the president's statement is for them a positive basis on which to continue their dialogue with the Palestinians.

Settlement fears

Mr Bush inaugurated a new peace process at an international conference in Annapolis, Maryland, six weeks ago.

The immediate aftermath of the talks was ruined by an Israeli plan to extend a Jewish settlement on occupied land between Jerusalem and Bethlehem called Har Homa.

Protest against George Bush in Har Homa (8 January 2008)
Thousands of people live in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem

After years of seeing land disappear under Jewish settlements many Palestinians find it hard to trust Israelis.

I went to see the Palestinian governor of Bethlehem, Saleh Tamari. His office looks down on Har Homa.

He said that 10 years ago he found it possible to give young people a vision of a positive future.

But now, because of Israel's settlement activities and because of the continuing occupation of the West Bank, he found it very difficult.

He said that Israel's plan to extend Har Homa after Annapolis made the whole process look ridiculous.

Checkpoints

On Thursday morning Mr Bush went by motorcade from Jerusalem to Ramallah, about 10 miles (16km) north. Bad weather had grounded his helicopter.

His motorcade was whisked through the Israeli checkpoints. Palestinians are not so lucky - long delays at checkpoints are a big part of their lives.

The convoy that carried George W Bush to Ramallah passes Israel's security barrier on its way back to Jerusalem
After Mr Bush left Ramallah, the Israeli army put back the barricade that usually blocks the road that he used

Israel's security regime rests on a network of walls, fences, barriers and permits.

This is not just a matter of personal inconvenience for Palestinians. The World Bank says that the biggest single factor stopping the growth of the Palestinian economy is the restrictions they face on movement.

Mr Bush and numbers of other people say that Palestinian prosperity is vital if there is ever going to be peace in this part of the world.

Mr Bush's call for an end to the Israeli occupation made him a very welcome visitor for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. And seeing the checkpoints instead of flying over them had stayed with him.

He said Israel needed its security and that he understood why there were checkpoints, but stated that Palestinians should have their own sovereign state without them.

After Mr Bush left Ramallah, the Israeli army put back the barricade that usually blocks the road that he used.

But a president who says freedom is the cure for the world's ills now believes that Palestinians need it too.



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