JERUSALEM (Reuters) -
President Bush says a planned pullout of Jewish settlers from occupied Gaza "will be good for
Bush's remarks, in an interview given to Israel's Channel One television and aired on Thursday, appeared to be an attempt to boost Prime Minister Ariel Sharon against Jewish rightists seeking to thwart the withdrawal due to start on Aug. 17.
"I believe the decision that Prime Minister Sharon has made and is going to follow through on will be good for Israel," Bush said, interviewed at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Asked why he thought Israel's "disengagement" from the occupied land would help Israeli security, Bush replied:
"First of all the previous system wasn't working. There was an intifada (Palestinian uprising), there was death, there was killing. And if you notice, there's been a calm in attacks."
Palestinian militants have generally observed a ceasefire since February.
The Israeli reporter asked Bush whether he understood critics who argue the withdrawal will bring more Palestinian violence rather than calm it.
"Oh absolutely, I understand. And I can understand why people think this decision is one that will create a vacuum into which terrorism will flow," Bush replied.
"I happen to disagree. I think this will create an opportunity for democracy to emerge and democracies are peaceful."
And if this Gaza experiment doesn't work - what will the US do then?
That is the question that needs to be answered now. Will we say that clearly these Palestinians are more interested in destroying Israel than building a state and the roadmap is a sham, or will we pressure Israel to give up more land and further reward terror?
And Bush's naivete isn't stopping there. Democracies aren't peaceful; free societies are peaceful. Freedom is the key, and as can be seen now in the formation of the Iraqi constitution, a democratic Islamic state without true freedom is little better than a dictatorship. There is no magic in "democracy" that ensures that people grow up tolerant and peaceful - Iran's elections were democratic - but a free society is far more likely to be peaceful.