WASHINGTON — President Bush, dispatching Vice President Dick Cheney to the Middle East, said the goal is to get Israelis and Palestinians to hold firm to the promises they've made toward peace.
Bush said Monday in the Oval Office that Cheney would "reassure people that the United States is committed to a vision of peace in the Middle East."
As Cheney tries to help hold together fragile negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Bush says he's still optimistic that a peace deal can happen before he leaves office.
Cheney departs Sunday for a trip to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Turkey. Oil is also on his agenda, as the White House — coping with high energy prices that have socked American consumers — continues to push for greater oil production in the Mideast.
The vice president's visit comes on the heels of a brief troubleshooting mission to the Mideast by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She was able to pressure the moderate Palestinian leadership to resume peace talks with Israel, which broke off after a deadly Israeli military incursion into Gaza.
"I'm optimistic that we'll be able to achieve a vision that shows a way forward, and I'm optimistic leaders will step forward and do the hard things necessary so people don't have to live in deprivation and fear," Bush said, addressing reporters after a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.