On Mideast trip, Bush hopes to propel historic Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking
In Jerusalem Wednesday, the president called for two democracies, Israel and Palestine, to live side by side.
(Page 2 of 3)
"We also talked about Iran. Iran is a threat to world peace," Bush said as he stood alongside Olmert, and added that he made his position clear on the controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released last month. "I said then that Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat, and Iran will be a threat if the world doesn't come together to stop that country from acquiring nuclear weapons."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Earlier Wednesday, after landing to what Israel calls a "Segel Alef" – or "first class" – state ceremony, including the maximum level of fanfare and an opportunity to shake hands with the country's religious, political and military leaders, Bush took a Marine One helicopter to Jerusalem.
Despite the centrality of this troubled sliver of land at the heart of the Jewish-Arab conflict and as a focal point for the three monotheistic faiths, Bush has in his two terms in office avoided making any visits here, in large part because the risks outweighed the benefits.
Bush came into office as the second Israeli-Palestinian intifada was breaking out, and when, for security reasons alone, a trip seemed inadvisable. In the years to follow, after 9/11 and the decisions to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospects of promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace looked more and more distant – and almost unworthy of the political capital a visit entails.
Instead, Bush invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the White House, but has not met them on their home turf.
Now, in the last year of his presidency, Bush finds himself with Israeli and Palestinian leaders who appear keen to give peace another go.
But expectations of what can be achieved in 2-1/2 days are surprisingly low. In the past, analysts note, when a US president came to town it usually meant that he had an achievement to celebrate, such as President Carter visiting after the Camp David Accords or President Clinton after the Wye River Accords.
"In terms of the peace process, I think that the expectations that much can come out of this are nil," he says. "If there were a profound announcement that there had been rumors about, a breakthrough on real issues, something that says that the reality on the ground is about to change, that would be something else."