Bush Push for Mideast Peace a Lame Duck Move

"For some of the Arab world, they haven't believed that this [trip] mattered to him," Ross said.

Since he began the peace process with highly publicized peace talks in Annapolis, Md., in December, Ross said, "the atmosphere between Israelis and Palestinians has deteriorated. ... If they don't change on the ground, then all of this is just words."

Nevertheless, Brookings' Pollack said, progress is possible.

"The peace process is not going to be resolved overnight. If the president was to make a big effort, he might be able to break out some log jams ... reassuring people about U.S. policy," Pollack said. "The problem is for seven years the region has seen a great deal of neglect."

This week's visit has done little to allay critics' concerns, said David Makovsky, senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

The people think "Bush comes, Bush goes, and my life's the same," he said.

"They'll believe again when they see changes on the ground and that's what they're missing," Makovsky said. "They need the public behind them. They have to deal with the ground... They're jaded right now until they see something different in their day-to-day lives... [The Bush administration has] to be seen as doing something."

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