Israel Ready For Road Map

Aaron Sharon, George W. Bush, Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister, U.S. President, Palestinian Prime Minister, Israel Palestine Peace Roadmap
The U.S. "road map" for peace inched forward Friday when the Bush administration agreed to outline Israeli objections to the plan and Israel moved toward accepting it.

In an unusual written statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Israel has significant concerns about the road map, and stated that the U.S. shares the view that they must be addressed fully and seriously, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller.

Hours later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that he is "prepared to accept the steps prescribed in the road map" and will present the peace plan to the Cabinet for approval.

Shortly after Sharon's decision to move forward was announced, President Bush said he will consider meeting with the Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers if it will help them move toward creating a Palestinian state.

"I understand it's going to be difficult to achieve peace. But I believe it can happen," Bush told reporters after meeting at his ranch with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Israel had signaled it might give cautious support to the plan, but only if some of its objections were taken into account.

Earlier Friday, Palestinian officials said they would not accept any changes to the "road map" peace proposal. The Palestinians said they had been assured by the United States that there would be no changes in the plan, and that they had accepted it based on this promise.

"We are ready to implement the road map as one package … and without any changes," Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said Friday.

Meanwhile, a pipe bomb went off Friday near an armored bus carrying Israelis in the Gaza Strip, injuring a passenger. Three other people were treated for shock. The attack was claimed by the Islamic militant group Hamas.

It was the fifth Hamas bombing in a week, and came just a day after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas leaders to try to persuade them to halt attacks on Israelis. Hamas said it would consider stopping attacks on civilians in Israel, but would continue targeting Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza.

The road map calls for an immediate end to violence, the dismantling of some Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

The Palestinians have accepted the road map, while Israel has expressed major reservations.

Israel's main demand is that the Palestinians take significant steps to fight terror before Israel makes concessions like ending army raids and freezing settlements, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger.

Israel says the Mideast peace roadmap calls on Abbas to dismantle terrorist groups, nothing less, and the "moratorium" he proposed to Hamas is not enough.

Abbas summoned leaders of Hamas to his Gaza City office Thursday in his first visible effort to help end attacks on Israeli civilians.

Abbas is trying to avoid using force against the militias, in part because he may not have enough of a power base to risk a full-fledged confrontation. Hamas has grown in popularity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where many Palestinians are embittered by Israeli military strikes and travel bans that cause much hardship.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Ziad Abu Amr, who participated in the meeting, said using force against the militants "would be counterproductive."

Hamas officials told Abbas said they were ready for a partial truce — halting attacks on civilians in Israel, but continuing to target Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — but only if Israel stopped hunting its members.

"We told him (Abbas) that ... if the Zionist enemy stopped his aggression ... the Hamas movement might stop its attacks against civilians, which does not include settlers and the occupation army presence in the Palestinian land," said Hamas spokesman Ismail Hanieh. Hamas officials said they would hold more talks with Abbas.

Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin dismissed the idea of a partial truce. "They can murder just a little and we can stop defending ourselves?" Gissin said. "This is a non-starter."

On Friday, the Israeli military destroyed a house belonging to the family of Hiba Daraghmeh, the 19-year-old bomber who killed herself and three Israelis Monday in a suicide attack outside a shopping mall in the northern Israeli city of Afula. Nine others lived in the house in the village of Tubas, northeast of the West Bank city of Nablus.

In Friday's bombing, the bus was en route from the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in central Gaza to Israel, with 15 people on board, when the explosion went off. A woman was hurt by the explosion, and three other passengers were treated for shock, paramedics said.

The claim of responsibility was made during a Hamas rally in the Gaza refugee camp of Jabaliya. In the past week, 12 Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in five suicide bombings, including four carried out by Hamas.