President Bush launches a week-long trip to the Middle East on Tuesday that will include an attempt to nurture peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. Bush will visit Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, the Saudi Kingdom, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Many analysts expect little progress, but Bush said in his weekly radio address that he was “optimistic about the prospects.” (Reuters)
What the commentators said
Bush is hoping to “give a nudge” to the peace talks he launched in Annapolis last November, said The Economist via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But the trip is a longshot. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is sure to complain about Israel’s announcement of new housing offers in the West Bank, and Bush is unlikely to “apply strong public pressure” to get Israel to back down.
It’s good that Bush is going, said Dennis Ross in The New Republic Online. But after “seven years without a peace process” cynicism is rampant. To “restore the faith of the Israeli and Palestinian publics in peace-making,” Bush will have to get “something tangible” out of this trip—like concrete suggestions from each side about what they can do that would “be meaningful to the public of the other side.”
Nobody Bush talks to on this trip will doubt he means business, said Fouad Ajami in The Wall Street Journal. “He is arguably the most consequential leader in the long history of America's encounter with those lands.” In his “stoic response to the burdens after 9/11” and his “battle against jihadism,” Bush has shown that he is a “leader willing to take on great challenges.”