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Bush Proposes New Mideast Peace Talks

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In the wake of the violence in Gaza, President Bush today sought to revive Mideast peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. In remarks televised from the White House, the president urged both sides to make the sacrifices needed for a Palestinian state to exist peacefully alongside Israel. Mr. Bush announced $190 million in financial support for the Palestinian government and he called for an international conference on the conflict this fall.

Here's NPR's Don Gonyea from the White House.

DON GONYEA: It was more than five years ago in the summer of 2002 when the president went to the Rose Garden and called for the creation of a Palestinian state. Today, he reflected on how that process has played out.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Since then, many changes have come - some hopeful, some dispiriting.

GONYEA: On the hopeful side, the president pointed to Palestinian elections and the selection of the moderate, Mahmoud Abbas, as the Palestinian president. But Mr. Bush continued…

Pres. BUSH: The past five years have also brought developments far too familiar in the recent history of the region. Confronted with the prospect of peace, extremists have responded with acts of aggression and terror.

GONYEA: He described the recent takeover of Gaza by the militant group Hamas and said Palestinians now face a choice between the moderates in President Abbas' government and Hamas, a group, which Mr. Bush says has demonstrated, beyond all doubt, that it is more devoted to murder and extremism than to serving the Palestinian people. He repeated his call for Israel to remove unauthorized outposts in the West Bank and to stop the expansion of settlements.

As for the Palestinian government, President Bush said it must disarm and arrest terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure. The president said again today that a Palestinian state will never be created by terror.

As for the international meeting Mr. Bush has called for this fall, the president had this to say.

Pres. BUSH: The key participants in this meeting will be the Israelis, the Palestinians, and their neighbors in the region. Secretary Rice will chair the meeting. She and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions.

GONYEA: Critics have long accused the Bush White House of not being engaged early enough and aggressively enough in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Today, Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center reacted this way to the president's proposals.

Dr. AARON DAVID MILLER (Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center): The good news - if there is a piece of good news - is that the president of the United States, again, has identified the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is on his radar screen.

GONYEA: But Miller adds that words from the White House will not be enough.

Dr. MILLER: If we really want to pass to a Republican or Democratic president in January of '09 the possibility of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then this administration in the next 18 months needs to launch nothing short of a heroic effort to create an environment in which a two-state solution is possible.

GONYEA: And even if the Bush administration does launch such an effort, Miller notes that the best opportunity for success may have already passed. Iran and Syria are greater obstacles than they were five years ago. And he says Hamas and Hezbollah had grown in stature as well. And Iraq has provided another example of how small militias can frustrate the ambitions of powerful nations.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.