OPINION & INTERVIEW: A process that can’t be faked

Saudis welcome Meshal in bid to broker new Hamas-Fatah talks

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are pushing Hamas and Fatah to meet in an effort to resolve the deep rift in the Palestinian movements, as Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal visits Riyadh this week.

Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said that Meshal, who arrived in Riyadh on Saturday, would meet with senior Saudi officials to update them on the status of contact between Fatah and Hamas, which of late, has reached a dead-end.

A Fatah leader in the West Bank, Hatham Abed al-Kadr, said Sunday that Egypt has been in contact recently with Fatah and Hamas officials in attempt to bring the two sides for a meeting in Cairo after the culmination of the Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) in about two weeks. According to al-Kadr, the Egyptian mediation was aimed at opening negotiations between Hamas and Fatah. [complete article]

The Har Homa test

It is difficult to think of a place more suitable than Har Homa for holding the first test in the spirit of Annapolis. The comparison between Har Homa Crisis No. 2 and the development of Har Homa Crisis No. 1 can teach us whether the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has indeed started a new track or whether all the players are stuck on the old line.

Does Ehud Olmert, who pressed for the establishment of the new neighborhood in East Jerusalem, really see something different from the Prime Minister’s Bureau than what he saw from the office of the mayor of Jerusalem? Will President George W. Bush pay lip service and eventually have to eat his words, just as Bill Clinton did 10 years ago? [complete article]

Bottom-up peacebuilding in the Occupied Territories

Can you describe your role in your former position as EU Middle East Envoy:

My role was to co-ordinate a bottom-up process to compliment a diplomatic top-down process – typically an effort by the diplomatic community or politicians to come up with an agreement; often quite simply are back of envelope-types of agreement. But unless this agreement has some connection with reality and is practical in terms of real power relationships and security, and has a certain acquiescence of support at the grassroots level, then the agreement will fail at this plane: it just can’t be implemented, or it just won’t be implemented because there isn’t the support or the conviction that this is a practical start. Issues then bounce between the political and implementation plane, and back to the political plane, and there is no effective outcome from it.

One of the lessons that came out of Northern Ireland was that it was important to work both at the political level, but also at the practical and the street level in order to make the two move in the same direction. Both had to be prepared in parallel. It wasn’t possible to come in at the top table and sit down with half a dozen people in Ramallah, agree on the back of an envelope a five-point plan and fly away the next day and think the job was done – because that was usually the stage when things became unpicked. [complete article]

London’s burning for Dichter

Avi Dichter will not be going to London. The Israeli dream of taking in year-end sales, the new production of Othello or the sights of Oxford Street vanished before the public security minister’s very eyes. The Foreign Ministry advised Dichter not to participate in a conference there, because he could be arrested for involvement in the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, when he was Shin Bet security service head. The one-ton bomb used to target Shehadeh in 2002 left 15 people dead. [complete article]

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