RAMALLAH: US President George W. Bush arrived at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s headquarters on Thursday for his first-ever visit to the Palestinian territories, saying he won’t be shy about pushing Palestinians and Israelis to make uncomfortable choices in the race for a peace pact before he leaves office.
Abbas greeted Bush as he emerged from his car in the walled compound.
The two men walked side-by-side along a red carpet, flanked by Palestinian security in olive-and-gold uniforms. Bush, who smiled and chuckled as he climbed out of his limousine to shake hands with Abbas, says he is offering no new proposals for resolving disputes over land rights and terrorist attacks.
In an unprecedented security operation, Palestinian police sealed off streets and erected checkpoints in large parts of this West Bank city during the president’s visit. Residents in nearby buildings were told to stay away from windows and balconies, and Palestinian security officials said US snipers were being deployed in the area.
After arriving in Israel on Wednesday, Bush was spending much of Thursday in the West Bank, including a pilgrimage to Jesus’s traditional birth grotto in biblical Bethlehem. Abbas’s headquarters were repainted and had its helipad repaved ahead of the meeting. Heavy fog, however, forced Bush to travel from Jerusalem to the West Bank city of Ramallah by car, a 30-minute trip