Bush to visit Israel and West Bank on 9-day trip to Middle East

President George W. Bush will visit Israel and the West Bank next month as part of a nine-day trip intended to nurture peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Bush also will make stops in Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He will leave Washington on Jan. 8 and return on Jan. 16. While Mideast peacemaking has been on the back burner during most of his presidency, Bush last month hosted a high stakes conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to encourage talks between Israel and the Palestinians on an independent Palestinian homeland. He left energized about helping the Palestinians and Israelis find a way to live peacefully as neighbors - and write a chapter for himself in the book of Mideast diplomacy. "This visit will follow up on the progress made at Annapolis in helping Israelis and Palestinians to advance their efforts toward peace and achievement of the president's vision of two democratic states living side-by-side in peace and security, as well as encourage Israeli-Arab reconciliation," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.