The Middle East Peace Process
What Bush Said: Just back from an eight-day swing through the Middle East, President Bush said he sees a "new cause for hope" in the region. "Palestinians have elected a president who recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel. Israelis have leaders who recognize that a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state will be a source of lasting security." The president said that he will do everything to help the Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of the year.
Analysis:While Bush sounded optimistic, the situation on the ground in Gaza is a reminder of some of the many difficulties negotiators will face. Hamas, which doesn't recognize Israel, controls Gaza. In response to Hamas rocket attacks, Israel has tried to seal off the region. Now the United States is hoping that forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be able to help. But Abbas has little, if any, control over Gaza, and his security forces are weak. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that there can be no peace without Gaza as part of the package.
Outlook in Congress: On Capitol Hill, the issue mainly comes up in the context of funding requests for Palestinian security forces. That is always a controversial issue on the Hill.
On the Campaign Trail: The Middle East peace process probably won't be much of an issue, unless the presidential candidates see some progress that they feel they might be able to build upon.
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