It was a nonsensical bit of political theater in my opinion, and not much more: The “summit” today at which Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, and PA President Mahmud Abbas met.
This had been planned some weeks ago, and the agenda, as proposed then, was one of “strengthening” Abbas by providing a “political horizon” — showing what would be possible if there were peace negotiations so that the electorate would support the “moderate” Abbas. Right….
But before this summit materialized, Abbas had already signed off on a unity gov’t in Mecca, at which time he caved completely, agreeing to join with Hamas in spite of the fact that there was no recognition of Israel’s right to exist, no commitment to comply with previous agreements and no foreswearing of terrorism. So much for moderation and political horizons.
By the end of last week, after considerable tension, PA Prime Minister Haneyeh had resigned and was charged with formation of a new government (about which more below). There were people in the PA who were under the delusion that even though nothing substantive had been offered in the way of moderation, the mere fact of forming a unity gov’t would bring them international acceptance. They were quickly disabused of this as the international community was not buying. Abbas’s attitude was more or less one of: This is as good as it’s going to get, so you’re stuck with it. The unity gov’t was necessary, he explained, to forestall further intra-Palestinian violence. Never mind that this gov’t would continue to sanction hitting Israel. Abbas’s impotence and lack of will with regard to real peace were thoroughly exposed.
And yet Rice came to town — reportedly believing that having the meeting was better than canceling it. Before Rice’s arrival, President Bush placed a call to Olmert, assuring him that the US was not going to support a unity gov’t that did not accept the three benchmarks set out by the Quartet. This was a pleasant surprise. Olmert would have waffled quite quickly if Bush had gotten on board with the new gov’t.
Rice met separately with Abbas and with Olmert yesterday. The tenor of the meeting with Abbas was clear because a scheduled press conference was cancelled. With Olmert there was “full coordination” on the need for acceptance of the benchmarks by the new PA gov’t before it could be considered “a partner.”
And today? No press conference this time either. According to Reuters, Olmert and Abbas exchanged accusations. Rice, making a presentation alone, announced that the participants agreed to commit to peace negotiations via the road map, and to a two-state solution, and said that the Palestinian state could not “be born of violence and terror.”
So? What the hell does this mean? How can there be talk of a two-state solution via the road map when Hamas is running the show for the Palestinians? Abbas gives lip service to peaceful goals. Who believes him, and precisely what does the charade accomplish?
There is talk of another meeting, and Rice is suggesting that she will return soon. These meetings will not be substantive — will not deal with the status of Jerusalem, the refugee issue or Israel’s return to ’67 lines. According YNet, Olmert says the upcoming meetings will focus on improving the quality of life for Palestinians and genuinely combating terror. Genuinely combating terror. This is a joke, right?
As to that unity gov’t: Haniyeh has five weeks to put it together, but word now is that it may come quickly.
IDF Military Intelligence Head Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today that Hezbollah is stronger now in terms of its weapons arsenal than it was before the war began. This is, needless to say, a serious security matter. But it also points up the total failure of UN resolution 1701, which was supposed to bring in UNIFIL troops to stop this from happening. Livni and Olmert had both pushed for this “diplomatic solution.” The international community was going to protect us. Let it be a lesson.
Defense Minister Peretz was at the meeting and attempted to tone down what Baidatz was saying, thereby eliciting angry words from other committee members.
Three American Congresspersons — Jane Harman (D-CA), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Steve Pearce (R-NM) and one Senator — John Kyl (R-AZ) — are here and participated with Knesset members in discussions held by the Joint Parliamentary Committee for the US and Israel. Reported MK Yuval Steinitz, who is hosting them:
“The Iranian subject was the first topic in all of the discussions. It was the central issue. “Everyone expressed an unequivocal stance that Iran must not be allowed to be a nuclear country, and to have nuclear weapons. There is some hope that if Europe works with the US to achieve economic sanctions, and a blockade on Tehran, then Iran may agree to halts its program, like North Korea. If not, it’s pretty clear that the military solution is on table.”
The delegation was brought to the Mughrabi bridge construction site, and demonstrated, according to Steinitz, a solid understanding of the severity of the threat posed by the Islamic Movement, which challenges the validity of the entire Jewish-Christian tradition when it denies the Temples existed on the Mount.
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