WASHINGTON – President Bush and Jordan's King Abdullah II held private talks Tuesday on renewed efforts to push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Bush and his wife, Laura, greeted Abdullah as he arrived Tuesday evening at the White House.
The affair came with many trappings of an official dinner — a red-carpet welcome that included Marines in dress uniform and the president and first lady standing on the North Portico steps to await the king's motorcade. A reviewing stand was built so the media could photograph their handshake.
But all were dressed casually, and there were no public remarks other than Bush's quick "Great to see you" before they turned to go inside. White House aides said there would be no comment on the talks since the meal was deemed "a private dinner."
The leaders also planned to discuss other regional and bilateral issues over their about 90 minutes together.
Their meeting comes at a time of some promise for Mideast peace, even as Palestinians are split between different political leadership in the West Bank and in Gaza.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2000, followed by an outbreak of fighting. The violence, which left nearly 4,400 Palestinians and more than 1,100 Israelis dead, blocked any progress in peacemaking.
But the uprising has run out of steam and Israel says it's ready to work with the new Palestinian leadership. Last week, Bush called for an international meeting to bring together Israelis, Palestinians and some of their Arab neighbors to discuss issues that have blocked the resumption of peace negotiations and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The meeting is tentatively expected to be held in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly gathering in New York.
Bush's administration also has become convinced the U.S. can no longer be a back-seat driver in the fraught Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
The Jordanian king, a close U.S. ally, has praised Bush's initiative but wants to explore ways to build on it. Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries that have made peace with Israel.