The first trip to the Holy Land by George Bush as US president was marked by a bold forecast of a peace treaty, and some strong words for the Israelis. And all that, after seven years in the White House remarkable for only restrained involvement in the Middle East’s most intractable conflict.
By the time he laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, he had already spoken confidently of a treaty to create a Palestinian state before he leaves office next January. And using a word usually only spoken by Palestinians, Bush called Israel’s presence in territories held since the 1967 war, an ‘occupation’.
He said: “There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”
Meeting the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he warned of painful political concessions from both sides ahead. Now, Bush wants Arab allies to begin reaching out to Israel to help nurture the peace process. But sceptics say talk of a peace treaty within the next 12 months is a fairy tale.