Bush Says 'One-Way Cease-Fire' in Gaza Will Not Work

03 January 2009

President George W. Bush makes statement on automaker bailout plan at the White House, 19 Dec 2008
President George W. Bush (file)
U.S. President George Bush is speaking out for the first time on the latest crisis in the Middle East. Mr. Bush used his weekly radio address to lay down his conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The president says any cease-fire must be meaningful and respected by all.

"Another one-way cease-fire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable," he said. "And promises from Hamas will not suffice - there must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end."

In his weekly radio address - released one day early - Mr. Bush reiterated the official White House stand on the conflict. He said Hamas started the cycle of violence.

"This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas - a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction," he said.

He said the militant group took over the Gaza Strip in a coup, and routinely violated an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire by launching rockets into Israel.

"On December 19th, Hamas announced an end to the cease-fire and soon unleashed a barrage of rockets and mortars that deliberately targeted innocent Israelis - an act of terror that is opposed by the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, President Abbas," he said.

Mr. Bush stressed the United States is fully engaged in efforts to stop the violence. He spoke of his own conversations with President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

A Palestinian woman gestures as others check the damage of their destroyed houses after an Israeli missile strike at Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, 01 Jan. 2009
A Palestinian woman gestures as others check damage to their houses after an Israeli missile strike at Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 01 Jan. 2009
The president said the humanitarian situation in Gaza is an area of concern to all. But he stopped short of calling on Israel to stop its assault.

"In response to these attacks on their people, the leaders of Israel have launched military operations on Hamas positions in Gaza," Mr. Bush said. "As a part of their strategy, Hamas terrorists often hide within the civilian population, which puts innocent Palestinians at risk."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes a statement to reporters outside the White House, 02 Jan 2009
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes a statement to reporters outside the White House, 02 Jan 2009
Mr. Bush conferred Friday morning with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has been involved in almost non-stop discussions on the situation in Gaza with leaders around the world. However, Rice has no plans to go to the region - an indication that with just over two weeks left in power, the Bush administration is preparing to hand over the problem to his successor, President-elect Barack Obama.

In his radio address, President Bush noted that Mr. Obama is being kept up to date on the latest developments.

"My administration will continue to keep the president-elect and his team informed, he said. And America's objectives in the Middle East will remain clear: We seek security and peace for our allies, the free people of Israel. For the Palestinian people, we seek a peaceful and democratic Palestinian state that serves its citizens and respects its neighbors."

Meanwhile, Israel is pressing on with its Gaza offensive, and Hamas is vowing revenge.

More than 420 Palestinians have been killed in the last week of fighting, and about 2,000 injured. Hamas rocket attacks have left four Israelis dead since the conflict began.