U.S. Presses Isreal For Immidiate Pullout Commitment
WASHINGTON [MENL] -- The Bush administration has launched what could be its
last effort to pressure Israel to agree to a withdrawal from the West Bank
by early 2009.
Officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has accelerated
efforts to obtain an agreement over the next week for an Israeli withdrawal
from about 95 percent from the West Bank. Under the proposed first stage,
Israel would remain in two Jewish settlement blocs, eastern Jerusalem and a
small portion of the Jordan Valley.
"[President George] Bush and Rice want an agreement from Israel on this
package over the next week before Bush comes to Israel," an official said.
"If there is no agreement, then that's the end of the negotiations under
Officials said Ms. Rice has focused on acquiring an Israeli commitment
for a withdrawal from the entire West Bank in exchange for U.S. security
commitments. The secretary has also assured the government of Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas would
concede on the Palestinian demand for the return of refugees and declare
an end to the conflict with Israel.