President Bush wrapped up his first major tour of the Middle East, after spending eight days traveling the region to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and mend strained relations. “I’m sure people view me as a warmonger and I view myself as peacemaker,” Bush said in an interview. “You just have to fight through stereotypes by actions.” (ABC News)
What the commentators said
Bush can go to the Middle East as many times as he likes, said Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in The Washington Post (free registration). But progress hinges on whether Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas can “cast aside their dysfunctional, destructive, ideologically driven policies.” If all three can’t bring themselves to abandon their “violent, intractable, three-way chess match” and embrace “a serious diplomatic process,” 2008 will only bring the same “macabre pattern of years past.”
Bush can’t claim any “serious results” from his “belated attempt” to mend fences, said Newsday in an editorial. Hopefully, his “memories of extensive sightseeing, inspecting Arabian horses, going on a falcon hunt” will make up for the “mild rebuff” he got from the Saudis when he asked for more oil. What do you expect when “only 12 percent” of Saudis “view Bush positively”?
Bush failed to convince the Saudis to open the oil spigots, said Richard Wolf in USA Today, but he managed to shine “a light on long-standing differences in one of the world's most volatile areas.” And in a tense, post-9/11 world, the trip was “part goodwill tour, something seen as long overdue in the Arab world, and on that level it was partially successful.”
“Blessed is the peacemaker who comes bearing a $30 billion package of military aid for Israel and a $20 billion package of Humvees and guided bombs for the Arabs,” said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times (free registration). Obviously, Bush is willing to try anything—even embracing diplomacy for the first time in his presidency—in an “11th-hour bid to save his legacy from being a shattered Iraq.” Yes, “clearly, the man believes in miracles.”