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Build on Bush's Middle East progress

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Bush did pave the way for his successors on some fronts. He declared Yasser Arafat "tainted by terror," opening the way for the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas (known as Abu Mazen) to play the lead negotiating role.

Bush was also the first president to publicly endorse a sovereign Palestinian state. He organized the so-called Quartet, consisting of the US, the UN, the EU, and Russia, to backstop the peace process. And he developed a three-stage practical series of steps toward peace, the "road map," beginning with antiterrorism measures and political reform by the PA and a freeze on new settlements by the Israelis. There has been some progress by both sides; much more needs to be done.

Bush also declined to support a "right of return" to Israel for most of the original Palestinian refugees or the complete withdrawal of Israel to its 1967 borders. These will be painful but essential concessions for the Palestinian side.

Exploratory talks between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began but made little progress. Convinced that his counterpart lacked political gravitas, Mr. Sharon embarked upon a policy of unilateralism, withdrawing from Gaza and a handful of symbolic West Bank settlements.

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