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George W. Bush Administration: Press Conference with Israeli President Peres in Jerusalem

(January 9, 2008)

Mr. President, distinguished guests, as the President of the state I am delighted to speak on behalf of our people. I want to tell you in simple language -- you came to a land and a people that loves deeply the United States of America, and without any reservation.

And also may I say that I have the highest respect for you and the highest regard, because, speaking as a politician, you introduced character in politics. It's a great contribution to politics -- character, courage, vision. And I'm thinking about the last few years you did really three things of importance: your address in 2002, which for the first time established the basis for a solution, and the basis for a consensus in the Arab countries and the rest of -- the two-state solution.

Then you and the Secretary worked very hard in Annapolis, in spite of all the skeptics around. Finally, Annapolis gave us one thing, at least, a year to work and make progress. And time is so precious. Dare I say that, firstly, I believe it won't be the last year, but it may be the best year for peace. God knows what can happen later on, we'll have to take it extremely seriously.

And I also believe that the process may be slow, but the progress can be sweet. The process will be slow because negotiations by character calls for time between the opening positions and the fallback positions. You argue, you argue, you have to wait for them. But in the meantime, you can build a support for the negotiations that can make it realistic, tangible. I'm referring to economy, it can raise the standard of the lives of the people that will help immensely the Palestinians, Abu Mazen, nothing more than an economic -- (inaudible) advance, and also the security arrangements, which are also positive.

About the economy, I say, it can be done very quickly, because things are ready, and that will have the most profound impact upon all people around. And I would like to add also that while the political side is controversial in our country, economic is a win-win situation. It is accepted by the whole parliament, it is accepted by the Arabs, it is accepted by you and the Europeans, and you can really build a constructive coalition with the Europeans on that issue under your leadership.

We take your visit not as a ceremonial occasion, very powerful, but a third opening after the two states, after the year of Annapolis, and now the year to implement the highest and the greatest hopes we have. It is in this spirit that I welcome you so much.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Mr. President, thank you for your kind words about me. I'm just following your example. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT PERES: Be careful. (Laughter.)

Q: Ten years to follow.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I wouldn't say that. You're well known in my country, and you're well respected. And so I bring the respect of America not only to you, but to the people of Israel. Secondly, I come as an optimistic person and a realistic person -- realistic in my understanding that it's vital for the world to fight terrorists, to confront those who would murder the innocent to achieve political objectives. We've been called to this task in the past. World War II was such a time, when the world was called to fight people who murdered the innocent to achieve a dark political vision.

Here in the 21st century, America knows first hand, just like Israel knows first hand, what it's like to confront those who would murder innocent men, women and children in order to achieve a political objective. And this war, Mr. President, goes on not only in this part of the world, but it goes on in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Lebanon; it goes on in capitals in Europe. And we must be steadfast in confronting it.

Secondly, the best way to defeat an ideology of hate is with an ideology of hope. And so I come to Israel as a man who believes strongly in liberty and the power of democracy and freedom to be transformative. And your country has shown that to the world. Israel is a thriving democracy, and its politics can be rough sometimes, just like the politics of America can be rough.

PRESIDENT PERES: (Inaudible) the Israeli.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, we share a common vision, though, of peace. I come with high hopes. And the role of the United States will be to foster a vision of peace. The role of the Israeli leadership and the Palestinian leadership is going to do the hard work necessary to define a vision. I thank you for your hospitality. I've really been looking forward to this trip, and it's such an honor to be in your presence, sir.

PRESIDENT PERES: Thank you very much. We met, actually, the first time in 1990, the young American President on his ship.

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's exactly right.

PRESIDENT PERES: And since then we are sailing.

Sources: The White House