Bush to make first presidential visit to Israel

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

US President George W. Bush will visit Israel for two days next month in an effort to maintain the momentum created at last week's US-hosted Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, diplomatic sources that spoke to Israel Radio confirmed on Tuesday.

The visit will be Mr. Bush's first visit to Israel as president. He previously visited the country as governor of Texas.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush Administration would also attempt to bolster its peacemaking efforts by throwing more money at the Palestinians. Rice said the US plans to increase its annual economic development aid to the Palestinians to $400 million dollars.

"For the next fiscal year, we have asked the Congress to approve 400 million in economic support for the Palestinian government and its people," Rice said in a speech to the Aspen Institute on Monday.

The decision came despite continued warnings by diplomats and Middle East experts that the Palestinians still have not established the necessary institutions and mechanisms to put that money to proper use. Congress has previously been unwilling to increase aid to the Palestinian Authority until it can prove an ability to effectively govern and to prevent its citizens from engaging in anti-Israel terrorism.

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