Christian Science Monitor’s Cameron Barr reports on the summit in Aqaba, Jordan.
The first meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers since the beginning of the intifada has come to an end.
In the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stood side by side with Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen, President Bush, and King Abdullah II.
In his closing speech, Sharon said: “It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves.” He said, “A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.” Sharon also pledged to begin dismantling some “unauthorized outposts.”
For his part, Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen called for an end to the armed intifada. He said: “We will exert full efforts to ending the militarization of the intifada [uprising]. The armed intifada must end and we must resort to peaceful means to achieve our goals.”
The New York Times reports Sharon’s speech fell short of the sweeping remarks US diplomats had drafted and then negotiated, word by word, with Israeli officials. He omitted any reference to ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and pledged only to dismantle settlements Israel considers illegal.
In a bizarre twist, the Israeli government issued so-called “clarifications” to Sharon’s speech even before he made it. His office said when Sharon referred to a Palestinian state, he meant one that met the conditions he had laid down, such as being demilitarized, and being the only home for Palestinian refugees.
President Bush announced the US will monitor whether the two sides fulfill their commitments under the so-called “road map to peace.”
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports President Bush waved his arms as he told reporters his aim is to keep the process moving, like a cowboy on horseback herding cattle. Later, aboard Airforce One sipping a Diet Coke, Bush said: “I used the expression 'ride herd.' I don’t know if anybody understood it in the meeting today.”
- Cameron Barr, Christian Science Monitor reporter in Jerusalem