At a joint press conference Wednesday President Bush endorsed
Sharon's plan calling the proposed pullout "historic and
"In light of new realities on the ground, including already
existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to
expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a
full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,"
Mr. Bush said.
When asked directly about the right of Israel to maintain some
settlements Mr. Bush said that final decisions must wait for "final
status" negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis
on the creation of a Palestinian state.
is now up to responsible Palestinians, caring Europeans, the United
Nations, to step in and create such a state," Mr. Bush said.
The president also seemed to back Israel's demand that Palestinians
not be guaranteed a right of return to land that is now Israel.
Mr. Bush's support is expected to help convince doubting members
of Sharon's own conservative Likud Party, especially Finance Minster
and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will vote on
Sharon's plan May 2.
While polls show that a majority of Israelis support Sharon's
plan, many leading Likud Party members oppose any withdrawal by
Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Annie Schleicher, NewsHour Extra