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The road to peace: Will Bush stay the course?

By Wolf Blitzer

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, right greets President Bush before the start of their meeting on Tuesday in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

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Washington (CNN) -- Going back to Israel's creation in 1948, U.S. presidents have had a tendency to get deeply sucked into the Middle East conflict -- often despite their initial instincts -- and President Bush is clearly no exception.

Speaking to Arab leaders in Egypt Tuesday, President Bush said, "The world needs to have a Palestinian state that is free and at peace, and therefore, my government will work with all the parties concerned to achieve that vision."

The president is now investing a great deal of his personal time, energy and prestige in jumpstarting a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and the creation of a new state of Palestine.

In part, that's a payback to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his number one ally in the war in Iraq, and those other European and Arab allies who also backed the war but wanted to see Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations resumed in the process.

Early in his administration, the president took a much more hands-off approach -- letting his aides, especially Secretary of State Colin Powell, do most of the heavy diplomatic lifting. But those efforts led nowhere -- as the violence continued.

Now, President Bush is taking direct charge of the so-called road map toward peace. How far will he go?

"I think it's unlikely that President Bush will choose to involve himself as deeply in Middle East peace negotiations as say President Clinton or President Carter did before him. When President Bush came to office originally, there was a real sense that President Clinton had spent too much time, had become too personally involved in the peace process," says Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution.

Whichever direction he takes, what is very clear is that President Bush has moved far away from his 2000 campaign declarations opposing so-called nation building. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has become deeply involved in nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And the Palestinians appear to be next on his agenda.

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