George W. Bush has indicated he will make his first trip as US president, to Israel and the West Bank for dialogue with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
It will be a fruitless attempt to continue with the Annapolis talks, of which much fanfare but little progress was achieved. With Bush, Olmert and Abbas in relatively weak positions at home, it is an obvious ploy to resuscitate a carcass that should have been buried long ago.
But Bush is keen to see some progress - if not a settlement - before he leaves office in 13 months. He has always wanted to be recorded in history as "the one" who brought peace to the Middle East region. However, that pursuit is in direct contradiction to his hands-off approach over his previous seven years in office, thereby making many White House observers suspicious of Bush's true motives.
Besides visiting Israel and the West Bank, Bush's itinerary includes four Gulf States - Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia - and Egypt. With the US primary season starting about the same time as his Middle East visit; perhaps Bush's "new international interest" is designed to detract from coverage of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.