Once again the White House seems to be shifting its PUBLIC position towards the crisis in Israel-Palestine. Even as Israel invaded Gaza last night, President Bush praised Ariel Sharon as “a man of peace” and suggested he had fulfilled his promise to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. “Israel started withdrawing quickly after our call from smaller cities on the West Bank. History will show that they have responded. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave me a timetable and he’s met the timetable.” Bush also appeared to back away from earlier statements that Israel must immediately withdraw from Ramallah and Bethlehem; he said he understood why it was keeping its forces in those two West Bank cities. The President’s change in tune comes just one day after Colin Powell returned from his largely failed mission to the Middle East.
Two weeks ago, President Bush famously called on Israel to end its invasion of Palestinian cities without delay. He urged Israel to stop all settlement activity and to withdraw to U.N. recognized borders. But the Israeli siege continued. Within hours of Bush’s speech, the Israelis stepped up their assault on the Jenin Refugee Camp. Days later, they entered the towns of Qalqilya and Tulkarm. Then, on Tuesday, Israeli troops entered the East Jerusalem suburbs of Abu Dis and Izzariyeh. Israeli military sources said the troops went into the neighborhoods because of reports that terror attacks were going to be launched from there. But residents of the area say the towns are peaceful and that it is the Israeli soldiers who are provoking the conflict.
Well, we are going to go now to one of these towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem, to the convent where Mother Agapia lives. Mother Agapia is a Russian Orthodox nun who oversees a convent school for 350 Palestinian girls outside Jerusalem. She came to the Occupied Territories from the United States some six years ago. She is the sister of ABCNEWS commentator and former Clinton aide, George Stephanopoulos.
- Mother Agapia, Russian Orthodox nun under siege in the Occupied Territories.