WASHINGTON – President Bush will insist that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (search) dismantle all terrorist networks in Palestinian areas when they meet at the White House this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday.
In a speech at a policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Rice said, "The president will be clear that there are commitments to be met, that there are goals to be met."
She said Israel had obligations as well, and that Bush, having shunned Yasser Arafat, will build with Abbas "a relationship that is based on the good faith that only democratic leaders can bring."
Also, Rice said, Bush will tell Arafat's successor in their meeting on Thursday that "democracy is a goal that is unassailable and incontrovertible."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) and his government have also reached out to Abbas, while criticizing the Palestinian leader as not aggressively trying to shut down terrorist operations in Palestinian-held areas of the West Bank and Gaza.
With hundreds of Israel supporters applauding in the Washington Convention Center, Rice called on the Palestinian leadership to "advance democratic reforms and dismantle all terrorist networks in its society."
She also suggested that Israel could not be expected to negotiate peace terms if terror and authoritarian rule were not curbed in the Middle East.
"America and Israel had tried before to gain peace where democracy did not exist and we are not going down that road again," she said.
Denouncing Arafat, who died last November after decades of Palestinian leadership, Rice said Arafat "valued neither Israel's security nor his own people's liberty."
Lauding Bush's decision to bar Arafat from the White House, Rice said, "There were those who ridiculed this principled decision as if the refusal to negotiate with a man who aided and abetted terrorism somehow revealed a lack of concern for peace."
But during the Bush presidency, she said, democracy is gaining ground in the Middle East and the Palestinian people "are trying to meet his democratic challenge" to establish a democratic state living side by side in peace with Israel.
The U.S.-supported road map for Middle East peacemaking calls on Palestinian leaders to "end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israel anywhere."
As Rice spoke, Sharon was in New York, rallying American Jews to support his plan to expel all Israeli Jews and troops from Gaza and to turn over the area to the Palestinians -- a move wholeheartedly endorsed by the Bush administration.
Protesters accused Sharon of giving in to violence and said more Israeli territorial withdrawals would follow.
Sharon and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., are due to speak to the lobby group Tuesday.
The speeches come during a time of turmoil for AIPAC.
Two AIPAC officials, research chief Steve Rosen and an assistant Keith Weissman, have resigned in the midst of a federal counterintelligence investigation.
The inquiry is centered on Lawrence A. Franklin, a former Pentagon official, who was arrested May 4 on charges of illegally disclosing classified U.S. military information.