For the first time during his presidency, in the final year of his final term, George W. Bush is headed to Israel and the West Bank. Given that he’s even less popular in the Mideast than he is at home, massive security preparations are under way.
In addition to going to Israel and the West Bank, Bush will make first-time visits to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
While the presence of Bush in the region will help to focus attention on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, his trip comes against a background of continued tension. This week, while the international community meeting in Paris was pledging billions of pounds in aid to the West Bank over the next three years, Israeli forces were attacking targets inside Gaza in response to rocket attacks.
The trip is partly a follow-up to a Middle East peace conference at the Annapolis naval base last month, which ended with vague promises to try to resolve the conflict by the end of 2008.
Announcing the trip schedule, the White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said: “Part of it is to continue to keep the discussions going, to show the commitment and to remind the world that this is a moment that has presented itself, and it’s time for everyone to seize the opportunity to make sure that the Palestinians and the Israelis are supported.”