US President George W. Bush arrived in Israel on Tuesday and went right to work trying to prop up the embattled Israeli and Palestinian leaders on whose political survival and perceived authority his vision of overseeing a final status Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement rests.
Even as public opinion polls showed an overwhelming majority of Israelis don't trust Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and believe he should step down amid yet another corruption scandal, Bush told reporters that the Israeli leader is "an honest guy."
The president also described Olmert as "a strategic thinker," another title most Israelis would find absurd considering the prime minister's failed policies in and around Gaza, his readiness to follow the 2005 disengagement folly by surrendering most of Judea and Samaria, and his abysmal handling of the Second Lebanon War.
But even if Israelis have their way and Olmert is booted from office, Bush assured everyone that his plan to play midwife to Palestine is not dependent on one man.
Turning to the Palestinians, Bush continued his policy of ignoring ongoing anti-Israel incitement and encouragement to engage in terrorism by Mahmoud Abbas and the media organs under his regime's direct control.
Bush even brushed off Abbas' recent remarks to a regional Arab newspaper indicating that he is ready to resume open warfare against Israel is his demands are not met soon, and instead painted Yasser Arafat's successor and long-time right-hand man as "a viable peace partner."
Bush and his administration have also done their best to downplay the fact that Abbas' rule is tenuous at best, as evidenced by its rapid defeat in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Hamas nearly a year ago.
The president is in Israel as one of many former and current heads of state and other international dignitaries taking part in Israel's 60th anniversary. However, Bush's peace agenda is expected to dominate the agenda.
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