Cheney meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders

Sunday, March 23, 2008

United States Vice President Dick Cheney watches Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert make a statement on March 22.

United States Vice President Dick Cheney met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday. Cheney met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Primer Minister Ehud Olmert and their Palestinian counterparts, the moderate President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as part of a tour of the Middle East.

Cheney told Palestinians that continuing violence against ill damage efforts for a Palestinian state. Cheney noted "Terror and rockets do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people."

The Vice President remarked he is committed towards a Palestinian state, quoting President George W. Bush, "The establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue. The Palestinian people deserve it." Cheney also noted that "Achieving that vision will require tremendous effort at the negotiating table and painful concessions on both sides."

Terror and rockets do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

—U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney

Abbas condemned rocket attacks against Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, but also told Israel to ease their restrictions on Palestinians. He also noted that Israel needs to stop building settlements within the West Bank. Abbas noted that, "Peace and stability will not be achieved through a settlement expansion, or the setting up of checkpoints around towns and villages, and the military escalation against Gaza, nor the incursions, continuous incursions into West Bank villages and towns."

Cheney met earlier in the day with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president. Both men spoke of Iran, with Peres noting upfront that Iran and their leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to "build their two satellites -- the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Hamas in Gaza ... Nobody can console us and say that the declarations of Ahmadinejad are less serious than they are; we have to take it seriously, out of experience."

Cheney noted that the Bush administration is pledged to the peace process and also referenced Iran but not directly, "We're obviously dedicated to doing all we can as an administration to try to move the peace process forward, and also obviously actively involved in dealing with the threats that we see emerging in the region -- not only threats to Israel, but threats to the United States, as well."

Cheney met with Prime Minister Olmert on Saturday and told Olmert that, "The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security." He also told Olmert that the United States backs Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks but that America was also working for a peace deal between Israel and the moderate Fatah-controlled Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Abbas lost control of the Gaza Strip to the rival Hamas party last year. Abbas, who is the leader of the more moderate Fatah party currently runs the Palestinian government located in the West Bank, the other Palestinian territory.