President Bush heads to Middle East to push for peace

By Brian Mooar
NBC News

President Bush is heading to the Middle East in search of a lasting peace for the region and a legacy for his Administration.

The President is facing skepticism from Israelis who feel he's too sympathetic to the Palestinians, and Palestinians who believe he's on Israel's side.

Bush brought the two sides together in Annapolis in November, but positive talk has yielded little action since.

In an Israeli TV interview, the President played down his hopes for a breakthrough before he leaves office.

"I'm not going to force the issue because of my own timetable," he said.  "I'm optimistic that it will get done by 2008."

President Bush will also make stops in Saudi Arabia and four other key regional allies, with Iran as a key talking point.

Some observers feel that may be the real motive for the trip.

"I really do think it was more an Iranian focus that has driven the trip than the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  Although having had Annapolis six weeks ago, I think that became something that the Administration and the President probably himself decided should be done," said former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross.