Bush Defends Israel's Right to Self-Defense

ByABC News
July 13, 2006, 2:09 PM

STRASLUND, Germany, July 13, 2006 — -- President Bush said Israel had a right to defend itself and chastised what he called "a group of terrorists who want to stop the advance of peace," speaking today in Germany on his way to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"We were headed toward the road map, things looked positive, and terrorists stepped up and kidnaped a soldier, fired rockets into Israel," Bush said. "Now we've got two more kidnapings up north. Hezbollah doesn't want there to be peace. The militant arm of Hamas doesn't want there to be peace. And those of us who do want peace will continue to work together to encourage peace."

Bush expressed his disappointment over the latest developments, saying there is a "very good chance" for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace.

"[I]t's really sad where people are willing to take innocent life in order to stop that progress. As a matter of fact, it's pathetic," he said.

Later he noted how remarkable the actions of Hamas and Hezbollah are. "In this case, the objective is to stop the advance of peace -- which is a remarkable statement, isn't it? Willing to kill to stop peace."

The president said there are U.S. diplomats in the region. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is talking by phone from Germany to her counterparts around the Middle East, and that he also would get on the phone.

Bush said he is concerned about the "fragile democracy" in Lebanon and added that whatever Israel does, it should not weaken the Siniora government there.

"We've been working very hard through the United Nations and with partners to strengthen the democracy in Lebanon," he said. "The Lebanese people have democratic aspirations, which are being undermined by the actions and activities of Hezbollah."

Lebanon needs to hold Syria to account for supporting the militant wing of Hamas, the president said, and he called on President Assad to step in and show some leadership in the effort to restore peace.

Bush highlighted Germany's transition to democracy and his close relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel during an arrival ceremony in Market Square in Stralsund, a city that had been part of communist East Germany before the country was reunified.