Bush rightly focuses on three elements that are prerequisites to peace: the removal of Arafat as leader of the Palestinian Authority, the reform of the PA, and an end to violence. Prime Minister Sharon has emphasized the same points over the last several months as he has sought to resume peace negotiations.
Palestinians have the right to select their own leaders, but both Israel and the United States also have the right to decide which leaders they are prepared to recognize and negotiate with. Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with someone who does not recognize its right to exist and conducts a terror campaign against its citizens. Every Arab leader who has recognized Israel and been prepared to make peace has gotten both land and peace.
As the only democracy in the region, one which allows women to vote, and even pro-PLO Israeli Arabs to serve in its government, Israel respects democratically elected leaders. The Palestinian Authority is a corrupt dictatorship run by a terrorist "elected" in a sham election in 1996, and whose term was supposed to be over long ago. He clings to power through intimidation and violence. Only true democratic elections monitored by international observers with multiple candidates can bring representative leadership to the Palestinians.
The President has reinforced Israel's long-held view that a Palestinian state "will never be created by terror."
President Bush made clear, as Israel has done, that nations committed to peace must "stop the flow of money, equipment, and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah."
Israel has repeatedly sought to negotiate peace with Syria, but the Syrians have refused to accept Israel's offer to trade land for peace. On the contrary, they have also pursued the path of terror, so President Bush's call for Syria to close its terrorist camps and expel terrorist organizations is a vital precursor to ending Syria's state of war with Israel.
Israel also is in full agreement with the President's view that the Palestinian Authority should be stable and peaceful with a healthy economy. The Oslo accords specifically laid out plans for economic cooperation and Israel has consistently supported the appropriation of American foreign aid to the Palestinians.
The Bush Plan also makes demands on Israel, but he rightly said the Palestinian terror must first stop, and the PA must begin to reform before Israel is obligated to act. Even before the President's speech, Israel had agreed to withdraw its troops from Palestinian Authority territories after the violence stops (and would not be in them in the first place if not for the violence).
Israel has also agreed to the Mitchell Plan and its call for freezing settlement activity, but the implementation of Mitchell also first requires a cessation of violence, and that plan also includes a number of other recommendations requiring Palestinian action.
The President envisions a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, both living in peace and security. This is a vision shared by Israel's leaders as well.
The President ended his speech with the Biblical injunction that when given the choice between life and death, one should choose life. This is the view of the Jewish people and the citizens of Israel. It is not the view of suicide bombers and those who glorify them. When the Palestinians share Israelis' commitment to choosing life, the prospects for peace will be brighter.