Bush sees peace in a year


President Bush anticipates a peace agreement before he leaves office.

Bush spoke with two major Israeli media outlets before his scheduled departure Tuesday for a three-day visit of Israel and the West Bank, followed by five days in Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf states and Egypt.

“There will be an agreement on what a state would look like, in my judgment,” he told Israel’s Channel 2, referring to his belief that a deal will be in place before his term ends in January 2009.

“I think it’ll happen,” he said. “I also believe that the leaders know me, and I know them, and that there’s a – you know, they say, well, are you going to have a time table? One time table is the departure of President George W. Bush from the White House – not that that I’m any great, heroic figure, but they know me and they’re comfortable with me and I am a known quantity. And therefore the question is will they decide to make the efforts necessary to get the deal done while I’m President, as opposed to maybe the next person won’t agree with a two-state, or maybe the next person will take a while to get moving.”

Bush told Yedioth Achronoth, Israel’s largest circulation newspaper, that he would press Israel on settlements during his visit. “We expect them to honor their commitments,” he said. “The Israeli government has said that they’re going to get rid of unauthorized settlements.”

In a separate roundtable with Arab journalists, the president said he envisioned a role for Morocco in helping to facilitate peace. “There are a lot of Moroccan Jews in Israel,” he said. That provides King Mohamed VI “an interesting opportunity to be a healer and a unifier. And I believe he’s committed to that.”

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