Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and an Exchange With Reporters
President Bush. It's my honor to welcome back Israel's Prime Minister to the Oval Office. Every time the Prime Minister comes, we have a very frank and good exchange. Today we talked about how to achieve peace in the Middle East. I reiterated my strong view that we need to work toward two states living side by side in peace. And we talked about how to achieve this—how to achieve security and peace and economic hope for all people in the region.
I appreciate so very much the Prime Minister's coming and willingness to share his views about his country's future. Every time he comes, I learn a lot. And I want to thank you for coming, Mr. Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Sharon. Thank you.
President Bush. Do you want to say a few things?
Prime Minister Sharon. Yes. I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for having me again here. I think it was a very interesting and fruitful talks about reaching a peace in the Middle East. Israel is a peace-seeking country. We believe in peace; we are committed to peace.
Of course, in order to achieve peace in the Middle East, first of all we have to have security; it should be a full cessation of terror hostilities and incitement. And of course, we must have a partner for negotiations. At the present time, we don't see yet a partner. We hope it'll be a partner there with whom we'll be able to move forward, first to achieve a doable peace in the area and second, of course, to provide security to the citizens of our countries.
And of course, one of the most important things is how really to take on the necessary steps to make the life of the Palestinians and other nations in the region better than they are now. These are, I would say, were the main subject of our talks today.
Again, thank you so much.
President Bush. You bet.
Fournier [Ron Fournier, Associated Press].
Q. Yes, sir.
President Bush. And then we'll alternate.
Israeli Position on Resumption of the Peace Process
Q. I have a question to you, sir.
President Bush. That's good. That's a— that's a reform.
Q. Is Israel hurting the peace process with repeated incursions and by ruling out, even as you're trying to jump-start the peace process, a withdrawal to the country's 1967 borders?
President Bush. There are people in the Middle East who want to use terror as a way to disrail—derail any peace process. And we've got to work together to create the conditions that prevent a few from stopping what most people in the region want, which is peace.
Israel has a right to defend herself. And at the same time, as Israel does so, the Prime Minister is willing to discuss the conditions necessary to achieve what we want, which is a secure region and a hopeful region. And that's why we discussed reforms necessary for the—that would enable a Palestinian Authority to emerge, which could give great confidence to two people, the Israelis and, as important, the Palestinians. And that's important.
And so we're going to continue to work together, along with other Arab—along with some of the Arab leaders, to fight off terror, to prevent the few from dictating against the will of the many in the region.
Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority
Q. [Inaudible]—of Israel Channel Two. Mr. President, there's a wide concern within the Israel Government that, after the next terror bombs, there should be an expelling of Arafat from the region. What do you think about it? Do you think it's fruitful—a fruitful move that will, as you said, would merge the terrorists and the Palestinian side? Or it's a destructive move that will hurt the peace process?
President Bush. I don't think Mr. Arafat is the issue.
Q. He is the issue——
President Bush. Excuse me for a minute. Let me start over. I don't think Mr. Arafat is the issue. I think the issue is the Palestinian people. And as I have expressed, myself, I am disappointed that he has not led in such a way that the Palestinian people have hope and confidence. And so, therefore, what we've got to do is work to put institutions in place which will allow for a government to develop which will bring confidence not only to Israelis but the Palestinians.
Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters].
Arrest of Abdullah al Muhajir
Q. Mr. President, sir, what can you tell us about this dirty-bomb plot? Is there still a threat? And if this had happened, was Washington, DC, the target?
President Bush. I can tell you that we have a man detained who is a threat to the country and that, thanks to the vigilance of our intelligence gathering and law enforcement, he is now off the streets, where he should be. And I'll let the Defense Department, Justice Department comment on the specifics.
Regional Ministerial Peace Summit
Q. [Inaudible]—Radio. Mr. President, I would like to hear your view about the regional summit we all discussed. Do you think that this regional summit should be based on the Security Council Number 1397, calling to establish a Palestinian state, which you mention in your vision? Or do you think it just should be based on the 242 and 338 Resolution that we all know about?
President Bush. Look, I think—here's the thing: I think that we need to have a— well, first of all, let's get the summit in context. You're talking about the proposed summit this summer, a ministerial summit of people that come together to work toward the conditions necessary to establish a peace. See, the conditions aren't even there yet—that's because no one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government.
And so, first things first, and that is, what institutions are necessary to give the Palestinian people hope and to give the Israelis confidence that the emerging government will be someone with whom they can deal? And that's going to require security steps, transparency when it comes to economic matters, anticorruption devices, rule of law enforced by a court system.
Now, it is very important for people to understand that as these steps are taken, as this—people work together to achieve the institutions necessary for peace, that there is a political process on the horizon as well. But the ministerial meetings that the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, suggested are all aimed at achieving—working toward the foundation necessary for there to be confidence and eventual peace.
Thank you all.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Abdullah al Muhajir, formerly known as Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen and suspected terrorist who was arrested on May 8 in Chicago, IL.
George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213753