KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Traveling south to promote volunteerism, President Bush stopped to wag his finger and speak in stern words to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon about withdrawing his military from the Palestinian territories.
"I meant what I said to the prime minister of Israel. I expect there to be withdrawal without delay," Bush said Monday in Knoxville, Tenn.
Bush also repeated his call to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to put an end to suicide bombings and violent opposition to Israeli troops.
"I mean what I say when I call upon the Arab world to strongly condemn and act against terrorist activity," Bush said.
"There is a mutual responsibility to achieve peace."
The president left the White House Monday morning to go to Tennessee to promote Citizens Corps.
During his State of the Union address in January, Bush called on all Americans to commit at least two years or 4,000 hours of their lives to volunteer activities.
The Citizens Corps program is one avenue for that, and Bush will announce he is seeking $50 million from Congress this year to establish 40 Citizens Corps councils, a network of everyday Americans pitching in on community-level police, emergency response and counterterrorism efforts, in local communities.
Aboard Air Force One en route to Tennessee, an aide to Bush confirmed that U.S. Special Envoy General Anthony Zinni had met with Sharon.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said earlier that the point of the meeting, which comes as Secretary of State Colin Powell heads to the Middle East to spearhead Zinni's efforts to broker a cease-fire, would be for Zinni to "deliver the message that the president meant it when he said the Israelis need to begin to withdraw now" from Palestinian areas in which they have made incursions over the last 10 days to root out Palestinian terrorists.
Fleischer said Zinni would be relaying "a serious message from the president... he expects Israel to act."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show "The Foxhole." His latest book is "A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century" (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).