NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Divide and rule might fail

Fresh violence feared if peace talks collapse

Palestinians are warning that the failure of a coming Middle East peace conference, convened by the US, could undermine chances of a two-state solution and may threaten a return to violence.

Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, reiterated after talks with Gordon Brown in London yesterday that the conference, scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland, next month, would focus on core issues rather than detailed negotiations, fuelling fears that it carries unacceptably high risks.

“We can live without a conference but we can’t live with a conference that fails,” said a close adviser to the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas. “It will be good not just for Hamas, but for al-Qaida too.” Hamas, the Islamist movement in control of the Gaza Strip, says the conference is an American-Israeli trap. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The catastrophe that Fatah and its Israeli and American lukewarm friends really fear is that if Annapolis comes to nothing — as it surely will — then Fatah will have to bow to the inevitable: it will have to talk to Hamas. In other words, the fear is not of renewed violence; it is of the reconcilliation of Palestinian divisions.

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