US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Israel yet again on Sunday to continue pushing forward, however slowly, President George W. Bush's vision of overseeing the birth of a Palestinian Arab state before the end of his second term.
Rice met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to press for the removal of more Israeli checkpoints erected in Judea and Samaria to hinder the movement of terrorists that have killed thousands of Israelis.
Later in the day, the American met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. At a press conference following that talks, Rice singled out the construction of Jewish housing in Judea and Samaria as "particularly problematic" to achieving a final status peace agreement. The Palestinians insist that their future state be Jew-free, while demanding that Israel open its gates to millions of additional Arabs.
Rice stated firmly that the Bush Administration remains confident that it can and will broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of the year.
But last week, senior Palestinian officials who accompanied Abbas to his Oval Office meeting with Bush expressed deep disappointment that the US did not appear ready to apply heavy enough pressure on Israel to extract the concessions the Palestinians insist are the minimum they will accept.
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