US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice landed in Israel on Thursday for her eighth visit of the year in an effort to maintain momentum toward an Israeli-Palestinian final status peace agreement that she conceded is unlikely to happen before her boss, President George W. Bush, leaves office.
Speaking to reporters at the start of her four-day visit, Rice suggested that a peace deal could have been hammered out in the next few months if not for Israel's internal political turmoil that has resulted in early elections scheduled for February.
Nevertheless, Rice insisted that the Bush Administration would not stop pushing for its vision birthing a Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria.
Early in his presidency, Bush declared that the Israelis and Palestinians would reach a final status agreement on his watch. With negotiations stalled amid ongoing Palestinian terrorism and Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip, Bush convened the Annapolis peace summit late last year and set the end of his second term as the deadline for reaching a deal.
In related news, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who now shares "lame duck" status with Bush, will travel to Washington later this month to try to obtain a few last minute commitments from the outgoing American leader.
Olmert hopes to have Bush reaffirm commitments regarding the peace process that were earlier made to Olmert's predecessor, Ariel Sharon. The Israeli also hopes to extract promises regarding military aid and arms deals, reported Ha'aretz.