There is something about the last throes of an American presidency that seems to persuade occupants of the White House that it would be a good idea to try and solve the Middle East problem. Jimmy Carter tried it, so did Bill Clinton. In Britain, Tony Blair fell prey to the same temptation and is now a part-time peace envoy (when not giving speeches for exorbitant sums in China.)
The latest lame-duck president to try his hand at the peacemaking game is George W. Bush. To be fair, his efforts are considerably more half-hearted than those of Clinton or Carter. In fact, until very recently there was some doubt about whether the Annapolis summit would even take place. Now we seem to have a confirmed date – November 26th. But expectations are justifiably low. The only senior person in the Bush administration who seems remotely fired up is Condi Rice. In a speech this week she declared that "Failure is not an option" – always a phrase to make the heart sink.