Bush condemns Israel's enemies

May 15, 2008 3:29:40 PM PDT
President Bush says leaders in the Middle East need to make hard choices that will lead to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.The president is in Israel as the state marks the 60th anniversary of its independence.

It comes months after Bush launched the first serious Mideast peace talks in seven years.

Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett is the only local TV news reporter in Israel. He has more on the story.

President Bush gave both sides a deadline to reach an agreement by the end of the year. But in his speech to the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, he made no mentioned of that. And after 48 hours, his historic visit threatens to be overshadowed by the conflict he is trying to solve.

George Bush told the Israelis what they wanted to hear Thursday afternoon. In his speech to the Knesset, he condemned the nation's enemies and its critics.

"All our problems in the Middle East would go away," Bush said. "This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it."

Bush was not the first American president to address the parliament, but he was hailed there as a hero. Yet his visit threatens to be overshadowed by the simmering Palestinian streets, where thousands marched in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank. There were peaceful protesters releasing symbolic black balloons, angry protesters who burned the Israeli flags and hooded children with mock rocket launchers.

By late afternoon, dozens of young men tried to storm the West Bank's largest border crossing.

The soldiers took up positions just inside the checkpoint, with the Palestinian protesters up on a nearby hills. The soldiers were determined to keep them from overrunning the checkpoint.

They fired rubber-coated bullets as the demonstrators closed in, and the standoff went on for nearly two hours.

Authorities remain on high alert, and security in and around Jerusalem is very tight. By late today, the Israeli prime minister has yet to order retaliation for Wednesday's missile attack in a southern city. But experts predict, it's coming.

Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said the cycle of violence seems inevitable.

"There will be a very serious response at some point," he said. "And President Bush, obviously, will complicate anything that comes out of his trip."

Earlier this evening, three Palestinian rockets struck a synagogue in another Israeli town. Retaliation might not happen until the president leaves the area Friday morning.