Rice-Olmert-Abbas: end of the affair
The expectation that President Bush’s planned November Middle East peace conference will fail is so widespread on all sides of the divide that it might be deemed conventional wisdom. Neither the Israelis, nor the Palestinians and other Arabs, nor most longtime Middle East hands in Washington and other capitals are expecting the Anapolis event, as conceived by the Bush Administration, to produce much of value; instead, their shared concern is largely to head off the very real possibility that its failure actually makes the situation in the Middle East a lot worse, by cutting the already slender ground out from under Palestinian and Arab moderates. Right now, the likes of Abbas represent a minority view even in Fatah when they continue to assume that a U.S.-led diplomatic process can bring a fair and credible solution to this most toxic of conflicts.
The reasons why failure is expected is not hard to see: Seven years after the collapse of Camp David, the Palestinian leadership, now considerably weakened, to whom the U.S. is talking has not substantially altered its negotiating position; its bottom-lines remain broadly similar. But the Israeli political consensus has moved way to the right. Olmert is weak and dependent on allies to the right of him, some of whom openly advocate ethnic cleansing of the remaining Arab population of Israel. (Avigdor Lieberman warned that no peace will be possible without the “transfer” of 1 million Arabs out of Israel. And such casually racist extremism is not from some fringe element; Lieberman is Olmert’s minister of Strategic Affairs). Even Olmert’s dovish credentials are questionable; he was the sidekick of Ariel Sharon in the latter’s ferocious resistance to the Oslo peace process; like Sharon he comes from the party of the settlements, and he has continued Israel’s systematic expansion of its colonization of the West Bank. [complete article]
See also, Peres: Government has no intention of dividing Jerusalem (Haaretz), Jerusalem is ours, warns Likud (The Independent), and Hamas softening throws twist in talks (CSM).