After approximately a year of talks, in teams and one-on-one, at lunches and even at the seemingly seminal conference in Annapolis, the negotiations with the Palestinians are once again sliding into a stalemate.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did everything in his power at his meeting on Sunday with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to persuade him to present an agreement in principle. “We have to complete the Annapolis process,” Mr. Olmert urged Mr. Abbas.

On the issue of Jerusalem, Mr. Olmert proposed that a joint Israeli-Palestinian apparatus be established, with international backing, to find a solution for the holy places – the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.

Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Eli Yishai attacked Mr. Olmert sharply, prior to his meeting with Mr. Abbas, following reports of his intention to accelerate the diplomatic negotiations, including examining a solution to the problem of Jerusalem within five years, with the help of international agencies and clerics.

“The prime minister has no legal or public legitimacy to make decision on a shelf agreement or any agreement, certainly not on the topic of Jerusalem,” said Mr. Yishai, adding, “the PA (Palestinian Authority) leadership is virtual and any agreement with them will serve as a basis for terrorist violations on their part and an attempt to upgrade their situation. Above all, it is clear that no dialogue should be held, certainly not with international agencies, on Jerusalem, as if it were negotiable currency.”

Another person who tried to curb the enthusiasm demonstrated by the prime minister’s associates at the idea of reaching a quick agreement, was chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat. He said that the PA was not optimistic regarding the possibility of finalizing all the conditions within two or three weeks. “At the start of talks, we already made it clear to Israel that we did not intend to accept a partial agreement, which would not finalize all the issues, including, of course, the issue of Jerusalem and a resolution of the refugee problem. All the talk about an agreement within a week, two weeks or three weeks are not true and not accurate. These are rumors,” said Mr. Erekat. He noted that the talks were mainly intended for summing up the progress in the negotiations to date, and refused to confirm or deny that there had been understandings in writing.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.