Entering the final stretch of her term as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice is already credited with several diplomatic achievements in the Middle East: She helped win support for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and brokered an arrangement to permit Palestinians in and out of the closely monitored territory. Now she is pushing hardest-despite widespread disinterest if not opposition-for a Mideast peace deal that establishes a Palestinian state. Why, after years of sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict? "I think the secretary is responding to both domestic political pressure and international pressure to show that the administration is actively 'engaged' in the Arab-Israeli conflict," Foundation for the Defense of Democracies President Cliff May told WORLD. "There also are many in the foreign policy establishment who believe that progress in this conflict will lead to progress in Iraq," a linkage May says he has "never been able to understand."
Although she remains one of the most popular members of the Bush administration, Rice, 52, has seen her celebrity status fade as opposition to the war in Iraq has increased. Once touted as a candidate for the 2008 GOP ticket, some say she is on a quest to reshape her legacy. May said he's "not convinced she believes she can make a difference. I think she is convinced that she needs to try-and to be seen as trying."
Rice has made five trips to the Middle East since the beginning of the year, going head to head with some of the toughest heads of state in the world and exhibiting a level of endurance that has earned her the nickname "warrior princess." Forbes magazine listed Rice as the most powerful woman in the world in 2004 and 2005 and gave her the No. 2 spot in 2006 (behind chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel).
"I think if we could get to a place where there's a real, reasonable chance of Arab-Israeli reconciliation as well as Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, that would be a huge step forward," Rice told The New York Times in a rare interview last month. "I think it's possible." As for personal legacy, after a tour of the National Archives with its Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, Rice noted that "people are still trying to resolve those legacies," and said, "I'm not going to worry about my legacy."