Bush An "Appeaser," Says Egyptian Press

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, left, accompanies US President George W. Bush upon his arrival at Sharm El-Sheik airport, Egypt, Saturday May 17, 2008. Bush is pivoting to the Arab side of the Mideast peace dispute, and he may well get a less glowing reception than he did over two days in Israel earlier this week. Bush begins two days of talks Saturday with a string of leaders key to U.S. goals in the region: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
AP Photo/Amr Nabil
Egypt's state-owned press opened fire Saturday on U.S. President George W. Bush as he arrived for talks with regional leaders at the conclusion of a five-day Mideast tour.

The newspapers, whose management are all appointed by the government, criticized Mr. Bush's speech Thursday in front of the Israeli Knesset for being overly supportive of the Israelis and not mentioning the Palestinians' plight.

"The Torah-inspired speech of Bush raised question marks over the credibility of the U.S. role in the Middle East," wrote Mursi Atallah, the publisher of Al-Ahram, the flagship daily of the state-owned press. "Bush aims to do nothing but appeasing Israel."

Mr. Bush's tour, which included stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia, represents another effort to push Mideast peace talks forward as his time in office winds down.

In his speech marking the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding, Mr. Bush reiterated the U.S.'s close ties to its regional ally, and dismissed the notion that the Jewish state should have to negotiate with its armed adversaries.

A front page editorial in Al-Gomhouria, another Egyptian state-owned daily, described Mr. Bush as "a failed president who delivers nothing but a lousy speech."

Akhbar Al-Youm also on Saturday published a picture of Mr. Bush hugging Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and captioned it "lovers."

The paper also ran a front page cartoon showing an Egyptian peasant consoling President Hosni Mubarak for having to meet with "this burdensome guy who will be leaving soon," in reference to Mr. Bush.

Egypt was the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel and has long been seen as a key mediator in the Mideast dispute that Mr. Bush has said he wants to solve by the time he leaves office next January.

Mr. Bush delivered a rosy forecast for the Middle East in 2068 during his speech. He limited his mention of Palestinians to just one sentence. "The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved, a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror," he said.

On Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal commented on Mr. Bush's speech by saying its understandable that U.S.-Israel relations are special but "it is, however, important also to affirm the legitimate and political rights of the Palestinian people."

CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante, traveling with the president as he arrived in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, reports that Mr. Bush is meeting with Arab leaders there to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"He's come here to try to get some kind of an agreement before he leaves office," Plante said. "More and more that seems unlikely."

Mr. Bush is seen in the Arab world as somebody who tilts heavily toward Israel. And that was pretty apparent yesterday when he was in Saudi Arabia asking, among other things, for the Saudis to pump more oil in the hopes that that might help bring down gas prices in the U.S.

The Saudis gave him a polite but firm "No."

Plante said the White House tried to spin that by saying, "Well, look, it is really not a problem of oil from the Saudis or anywhere else, it is the problem of refining capacity and high prices driven by speculation" - all which may be true, but the White House has to admit as it does regularly there is no short-term solution to the problem of high gas prices.

Back on the peace process, the president will continue trying to do that before he leaves office. In fact, Plante reports that he's planning to come back to the Middle East again next October.