Furious Palestinians reject Bush pledges to Israel
Palestinian leaders denounced US President George W Bush's pledge to Israel on Wednesday that it could keep part of the West Bank as a rejection of Palestinian rights endangering the region's future.
Bush referred to the sprawling suburban settlements as "new realities on the ground" that made it unrealistic for Israel to retreat to the borders of 1967, the year it captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Middle East war.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won the commitment from Bush as part of his unilateral plan to "disengage" from conflict with Palestinians by pulling settlers out of Gaza and cementing a hold on West Bank settlement blocs behind new security lines.
"Bush and Sharon are trying to protect each other's political future but endangering the political future of Israel, the Palestinians and the whole region," said Yasser Abed Rabbo of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee.
Qurie called on the Quartet that stands behind the "road map" peace plan -- the European Union, United Nations, United States and Russia -- to convene an international conference "to discuss the neglect of Palestinian rights."
More than 230,000 Jews have carved out sleek suburban enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza, kept secure by Israeli soldiers, checkpoints, fences and walls that restrict the movements of 3.6 million Palestinians.
BUSH REMARKS 'SEVERE BLOW'
The moderate Qurie called Bush's remarks a "severe blow. We will not deal with unilateral issues, we will only deal with international law and with the road map." "This US administration's policies, its bias toward occupation and rejection of international law will jeopardize U.S. interests in the region," said Jibril al-Rajoub, security adviser to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
"The Americans will as a result only reap hostility among the people of the Middle East. This US administration is dealing with the world as if it's a Texas ranch."
Bush and Sharon repeated commitments to revive the road map, which envisages a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. But Israel rules out negotiations until Palestinian authorities put a stop to militant violence.
Bush also appeared to deny Palestinian refugees any right of return to what is now Israel, saying they should be resettled in a future Palestinian state instead.