With the crowd applauding wildly, Vice President Al Gore spoke of Israel's destiny as the "promised land."

But Gore's current dip into troubled Middle East waters also is limbering him up for a crusade to different hallowed ground: the Oval Office.Gore's four-day trip to the Middle East, which kicked off with Israel's 50th anniversary celebrations, offered the opportunity to buff up his foreign policy credentials as the 2000 presidential campaign begins.

Doing what his Democratic rivals cannot, Gore represented the White House in efforts to nudge along the stalled Middle East peace process.

Gore has already met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he was to meet Saturday night with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"I want to underscore the fact that this was not a negotiation and I am not a negotiator," Gore said "I came here not only to celebrate Israel's achievements but also to restate our ironclad commitment to Israel's security and well-being in its next half-century and beyond."

Netanyahu and Arafat were to meet separately in London on Monday with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

In Saudi Arabia, Gore met with King Fahd - an important U.S. ally - and his apparent political successor, Crown Prince Abdullah.

Gore told troops at the Prince Sultan Air Base that they were in the front line against "those who would threaten world peace." Troops at the base enforce the southern no-fly zone over Iraq.