Mr. Bush told reporters at the presidential retreat, ”Mr. Arafat has failed as a leader.”
“[Former Palestinian] Prime Minister [Mahmoud] Abbas was undermined at all turns by the old order. That meant Mr. Arafat. That’s why we’re now stalled.”
President Bush also said he was disappointed in Abbas’ resignation Sept. 6.
“At every turn he was undercut by the old order,” the president said.
“Hopefully, at some point in time, a leadership of the Palestinian Authority will emerge which will then commit itself 100 percent to fighting off terror,” Mr. Bush said, reiterating his full commitment to his proposed “road map” to peace.
At the press conference, King Abdullah acknowledged President Bush’s efforts to encourage peace in the troubled region, praising his “strong genuine dedication” throughout the process.
“It took a lot of courage to come to the Middle East,” Abdullah said. “Unfortunately, there is a lull at the moment.”
The two leaders spoke with reporters from a helicopter hangar on the grounds of Camp David, using the hangar as shelter from the approaching Hurricane Isabel. The meeting between the two leaders was moved up from Friday, due to the gathering storm.
On Tuesday, the United States warned Israel might forfeit part of a $9 billion loan guarantee package if the loan money would be spent on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government has said it will not allow the United States’ warning to affect its decisions.
“It is not an issue that will affect government policy,” foreign ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said Wednesday.
Also Tuesday, the United States vetoed an Arab-backed United Nations resolution ordering Israel to stop threatening Arafat with expulsion from the West Bank.
U.S. ambassador John Negroponte explained the U.S. standpoint, saying that while it does not support Arafat’s removal, the Syrian resolution does not condemn the actions of Palestinian militant groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
“The United States does not support either the elimination of Mr. Arafat or his forced exile. While Mr. Arafat is part of the problem we believe that this problem is best solved through diplomatic isolation, and we have made this view clear,” Negroponte said.
Arafat responded to the veto from his West Bank headquarters Wednesday, saying, “No decision here or there will shake us,” he said. “We are bigger than all decisions.”