Israel to welcome President Bush with 'open arms'

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Israel is gearing up for the visit of U.S. President George Bush this week. But as Robert Berger reports, the high-profile visit comes amid escalating tension between Israel and the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip.

George Bush, who is visiting Israel this week

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel will welcome President Bush with "open arms."

Mr. Olmert told the Cabinet the president has shown great friendship toward Israel throughout his term and has been a strategic ally.

He said Israel will discuss security issues with Mr. Bush, including what he described as the ongoing "terror" from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Olmert said a longer-range Palestinian rocket that hit the major Israeli city of Ashkelon last week marked an escalation, and the Israeli army would respond by stepping up raids into Gaza.

In addition, Palestinian officials say Israeli fuel cuts to Gaza will force residents there to live without electricity eight hours a day beginning Sunday. Israeli officials said the cuts are a "stern message" to the Islamic militant group Hamas to halt the rocket attacks.

Israel has tightened sanctions on Hamas since it seized control of Gaza in June, when it routed the Fatah forces of western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He now heads a moderate government in the West Bank.

Officials in the Abbas government have condemned the Israeli fuel cuts and raids into Gaza, saying they are harming the atmosphere in peace talks which resumed last month after a seven year break.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert will meet Tuesday to discuss Gaza and other issues, a day before President Bush arrives for a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank.

It has been reported that nearly 400,000 US Dollars have been spent to prepare for the visit.