US President George W Bush began seeing to the Middle East peace
initiative when he did not seem to be occupied.
All of sudden, the region has become the focal point of his
administration's foreign policy this year.
He embarked on a Middle East tour yesterday, his last chance to
undo the damage his presidency has done to the region.
The visit follows a pledge made at the Annapolis conference in
November that he would personally assist negotiations between
Israel and Palestine.
Elaborating the foreign policy of the Bush administration in its
last year, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said its priority
was to maintain the momentum initiated by the conference.
Bush's nine-day tour will take him to Israel, West Bank in
Palestine, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia
He became the first US president to accept an independent
Palestinian state, claiming on July 24, 2002 that a Middle East
solution should entail "two states, living side by side in peace
The peace initiative, however, has given way to other agendas
such as the war on terror, Iraq and Iran in the past seven
He was aware of the last obstacles that Israelis and
Palestinians cannot dodge if they want to be peaceful neighbors. It
means that Israel has to withdraw to its safe and recognized
border, the status of Jerusalem should be solved, and the refugees
from Palestine should be settled.
Will Bush's trip make his vision within reach?
This is his last effort to salvage a legacy from two terms in
office overshadowed by a controversial Middle East policy - the
death rate in Iraq in the past 12 months has been the second
highest in any year since the 2003 US and UK invasion of Iraq, the
Taliban activities have again surfaced in Afghanistan, and Iran
remains a hard nut to crack for the US.
Bush decided to travel around the Middle East only a few weeks
ago. This is a belated decision to step up his personal involvement
in the quest for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
His chances of securing an agreement before he leaves office in
January 2009 are very slim because it will be associated with where
the Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon relations head for. The
splitting parties in Palestine do not help. Israel's coalition
government cannot make a decision.
Still, the weight of the Israel-Palestine issue is wading while
Iran and Pakistan have caught more world attention.
Bush came to office inheriting Bill Clinton's highly active, but
ultimately failed, peace initiative.
The world will wait and see whether Bush is luckier than
(China Daily January 9, 2008)