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President Bush, Israel’s Olmert Back Palestinian Fatah Group

President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Tuesday to discuss their support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah while looking ahead to the possibility of two separate Palestines. Foreign policy analysts comment on the situation.

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    Israel looks at two Palestines. We start with some background narrated by NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman.


    Israel bolstered its forces on the Gaza border today, further isolating the territory now controlled by Hamas. Israeli thanks rumbled close to a key crossing point, Erez, where some 150 Palestinians seeking to escape Gaza unrest have been trapped.

    Israel has shut down all border crossings with Gaza as it wrestles with a new reality of divided rule over the Palestinian lands, Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.

    In Washington today for talks with President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made clear he wanted to support Fatah and the emergency government Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, created on the West Bank.

    EHUD OLMERT, Prime Minister of Israel: I want to strengthen the moderates and to cooperate with President Abu Mazen, who is president of all Palestinians, perhaps the only person who was widely elected in a democratic manner by all the Palestinian people

    And I am going to make every possible effort to cooperate with him and to move forward to see how things can be worked jointly, in order to provide the Palestinians with a real, genuine chance for a state of their own, fulfilling your vision, Mr. President, which I share, of a two-state solution, and at the same time, making sure that there is security for the people of Israel. And the people of Israel deserve security, both in the south and in the north and in the east side of our country.


    President Bush also pledged his full support for Abbas and Fatah.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Our hope is that President Abbas and the prime minister, Fayyad, who's a good fellow, will be strengthened to the point where they can lead the Palestinians in a different direction with a different hope.


    Prime Minister Olmert said he wanted to establish regular talks with Abbas' new emergency government, but said the Palestinians would have to meet conditions before negotiations could begin on a long-term peace accord.


    In order to achieve peace, we have to fight terror, we have to increase security, we have to upgrade the quality of life for the Palestinians. And, of course, the Palestinians have to establish a much more credible and serious administration that will be able to take care of their daily needs in an appropriate manner.


    Olmert has agreed to release to the Abbas government $300 million to $400 million in Palestinian tax revenues, but today he did not spell out how Israel might change conditions in the occupied West Bank, where a quarter-million Israeli settlers reside.

    Regarding Gaza, which the Israelis left in 2005, but which remains almost entirely dependent on Israel for everything from food to fuel to jobs, Olmert pledged to allow humanitarian organizations to bring in basic supplies and aid.


    We have been very, very attentive to the needs of the — humanitarian needs of Gaza, and we will continue to provide everything that is necessary in order to meet these humanitarian needs. Israel will not be indifferent to the human suffering in Gaza.


    The Bush administration is proposing some $40 million in humanitarian aid for the Gaza Palestinians through the United Nations.