by RAY FLEMING
LET'S hope that President Bush's visit to the Middle East, which ended yesterday, will be the last he makes before he leaves the White House in eight months time. Apart from the predictably warm welcome he received in Israel as he participated in that country 60th anniversary, his visit was a failure. In Saudi Arabia he was embarrassed by his host's disinclination to meet his request for more oil; in Egypt his main speech generated only polite applause and his reference to the threat from Iran was received in complete silence. However, the most depressing feature of this visit was Mr Bush's failure to inject any sense of urgency into the talks between Israel and the Palestinians over the two-states solution which he launched with such apparent enthusiasm at the Annapolis summit last November. He has now abandoned the hope that a final agreement would be negotiated before he leaves the White House and has substituted agreement on what he calls a “definition” of the Palestinian state. No one knows quite what this would be but it will be worthless unless it deals in specific terms with a resolution of such thorny problems as borders, settlements, refugees and so on - the very issues which Israel thus far has shown every sign of wanting to avoid. It will be very surprising indeed if Mr Bush's successor does not find Israel-Palestine at the top of the priority in-tray in the Oval Office on January 20, 2009.