In their Oval Office meeting Monday, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and US President George Bush appeared largely in agreement on diplomatic issues. Both expressed skepticism in the alleged reforms of the PA government by Yasser Arafat, and therefore were disinclined to advance plans for a Mideast peace conference or to set a timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Bush expressed doubts in the ripeness of conditions for "a ministerial summit of people to come together to work toward the conditions necessary to establish a peace. See the conditions aren't even there yet."
Despite a recent government shuffle by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, Bush said that a summit was not in the offing "because no one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government. So first things first." The emphasis, he said, had to be on "what institutions are necessary to give the Palestinian people hope and to give the Israelis confidence that the emerging government will be someone with whom they can deal."
"We've got to work together to create the conditions that prevent a few from stopping what most people in the region want, which is peace. Israel has a right to defend herself and at the same time as Israel does so the prime minister's willing to discuss the conditions necessary to achieve what we want which is a secure region and a hopeful region," Bush said.
Sharon reiterated his view that Arafat is not someone whom Israel was willing to deal with diplomatically. "At the present time we don't see yet a partner. We hope it will be a partner there who will be able to move forward, first to achieve durable peace in the area. And second of course to provide security to the citizens of our countries. And of course one of the most important things is how really to take the steps to make the lives of the Palestinians and other nations in the region better than they are now," Sharon said.