George W. Bush is in Israel for his first-ever presidential visit to the Middle-East. Cast by his own hand in the role of the peace maker, he arrived insisting there was a real opportunity for progress.
But it has been two months since Annapolis, and there’s been precious little agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis on core issues.
Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sat down together this afternoon. When they emerged Olmert made it very clear there were not two parties which had to reach agreement but three.
“Gaza must be part of the package, and as long as there is terror from Gaza it will be hard to reach any peaceful understanding between us and the Palestinians.”
But Hamas-run Gaza remains out of the diplomatic loop. Bush said there was only so much the United States could do. “America cannot dictate the terms of what a state will look like. The only way for peace is for the two parties to come together and make difficult choices but we will help. We want to help.”
Bush is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next. He’ll be keen to know the details of what was discussed. For Abbas, the issue of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank is just as crucial as the involvement of Hamas in the future talks.