(CNSNews.com) - "The storms of violence cannot go on. Enough is enough," said President Bush Thursday, in a clearly worded statement about the escalating violence in the Middle East and what must be done to stop it.
"This is a conflict that can widen -- or an opportunity we can seize," Bush said, announcing that he will send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East next week to seek a way out of the downward spiral that has horrified -- and divided -- the world.
"The Middle East can write a new story of trade, and development, and democracy, and we stand ready to help," Bush said in a speech delivered at the White House. "Yet this progress can only come in an atmosphere of peace. And the United States will work for all the children of Abraham to know the benefits of peace."
He had stern words for Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and the Arab states, and he warned Israel that its current military incursions are just a temporary measure that will work against peace in the long run.
Stern message to Palestinians and Arabs
"When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future itself is dying," President Bush said.
Terrorism does not help the Palestinian cause, he repeated several times. "To the contrary, suicide bombing missions could well blow up the best and only hope for a Palestinian state."
He said all Arab states must keep their promise to "actively oppose terror in all its forms."
Stop the terrorist activities, President Bush said, speaking directly to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people, and other Arab nations. Disrupt the terrorist financing, he said, and stop glorifying terror in state-owned media. Suicide bombers are not martyrs, the president said. "They're murderers."
President Bush also had harsh remarks for Iraq, which is rewarding Palestinian parents by paying them money when their children blow themselves up. President Bush said Iraq is "guilty of soliciting murder of the worst kind."
Arab states must accept Israel as a nation and as a neighbor, Bush said, because "peace with Israel is the only avenue to prosperity and success for a new Palestinian state." He said Israel and a new Palestinian state should be economic partners, not mortal enemies.
"This could be a hopeful moment in the Middle East," President Bush said, mentioning the proposal put forth by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. He said the proposal has put a number of Arab countries "closer than ever to recognizing Israel's right to exist."
The goal is clear, President Bush said. The goal is the existence of two states, Israel and Palestine, "living side-by-side in peace and security."
But that goal can be met only through leadership, not terror, Bush said. He seized the occasion to scold Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat for failing to control terrorism.
"The chairman of the Palestinian Authority has not consistently opposed or confronted terrorists," Bush said. "The situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making. He has missed his opportunities, and thereby betrayed the hopes of the people he is supposed to lead."
Given Arafat's failure, Bush said, Israel feels it has no choice but to strike at the terror networks that are killing its citizens. "Yet Israel must understand that its response to these recent attacks is only a temporary measure...We all know today's situation runs the risk of aggravating long-term bitterness and undermining relationships that are critical to any hope of peace."
Israel face "hard choices" too
"Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop," President Bush said. "Israeli occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries," as set forth in United Nations resolutions 242 and 338.
President Bush said Israel should also show concern and respect for the dignity of the Palestinian people "who are and will be their neighbors." He urged Israel to distinguish between terrorists and "ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide for their own families."
Be compassionate at checkpoints and border crossings, he said. Spare Palestinians daily humiliation. Allow peaceful people to go back to work.
President Bush acknowledged that Israel faces a terrible challenge - that of rooting out terrorists' nests. "America recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terror," he said, but for the sake of future peace, he asked Israel to stop its incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin withdrawing from those cities.
"I speak as a committed friend of Israel," the president said. "I speak out of a concern for its long-term security - security that will come with a genuine peace."
As Israel steps back, "responsible" Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors must step forward, Bush said, to show the world that they are truly committed to peace. He called for an immediate ceasefire and an immediate crackdown on terrorism.
"I expect better leadership and I expect results," he added.