Visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday asserted that when Israelis elected former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 it was on a platform that shunned regional peace, and so the very fact that Israel and the Palestinians are in dialogue today should be seen as a major achievement.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah with her host Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Rice said:
"I would just like to remind everyone that this time last year, we, of course, didn't have a peace process. And perhaps it's well to go back to when President [George W.] Bush came to office in 2001, in the midst of the breakdown completely of the peace process with the second intifada underway, with the election of Prime Minister Sharon who explicitly did not come to power intending to be a part of the peace process."
Having laid equal blame on both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the breakdown of the peace process, Rice proceeded to hold up President Bush as the force that brought both sides back to their senses.
"President Bush has worked tirelessly over the last seven years of his administration to lay a foundation for this peace process," said Rice.
The secretary also reminded Palestinians skeptical of America's role in the peace process that Bush had directly committed "American taxpayer resources" to the birth of a Palestinian Arab state.