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Sunday, 19 September. 2021
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

A major US- sponsored international conference is scheduled to be held in Washington this autumn to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Middle East Quartet which comprises EU, Russia, USA and the UN will attend along with a host of other countries from the Middle East including Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Syria among others.

It is a known fact that the major players have their own agenda for attending, but what is important is the final outcome. Many observers including myself questioned the point of such a gathering. There are no clear objectives, no final goals and no mechanism to implement the decisions. Worst of all we have a plethora of conflicting signals emanating from Ramallah, Tel-Aviv and Washington.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President in an unusual outburst to the press some two weeks ago, said the conference must tackle difficult final status issues such as Jerusalem, the final borders, the refugees and the sharing of water resources.

But Ehud Olmert the Israeli Prime Minister has other ideas. A few days later he assured his Kadima Party that there shall not be any final agreements. He said “we shall be talking about a declaration of principles, intentions and matters of common interests”. His Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni said on several occasions that the conference should concentrate on less difficult issues such as the building of Palestinian Institutions and the economy adding that “sometimes it is not wise to deal with difficult and complicated matters”.

There is a general feeling among Palestinians including Mr.Abbas himself, that Israel is not really serious about peace.

Helen Cooper of the New York Times reported on September 21st that Abbas has thrown caution to the air in a joint press conference with the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, when he said bluntly that the conference must deal with final status issues that bedevilled negotiators since 1979. He also said that he had not heard in clear English from anyone that the Conference will deal with the core final status issues.

Quoting David Baker a spokesman for Ehud Olmert the Israeli Prime Minister, The New York Times reported him as saying “Mr.Olmert is serious about making a positive contribution to the conference and is very much looking forward to meeting the Arab moderate leaders.”.

Yet in her report of September 24th the same Helen Cooper reported in the New York Times that Condoleeza Rice pledged that the conference would address the “core issues” of Palestinian statehood, in a nod to Arab leaders, particularly Saudi Arabia.”

Such confusing and contradictory messages are creating unease and the suspicion in the Arab World that the Israelis and their US allies are not really serious about peace.

I would argue that the Conference is merely a public relation stunt designed to give the lame duck Bush Administration a much needed fig leaf. The failures in Iraq and Afghanistan had left the President exposed and politically naked. It is not therefore surprising that he is now seeking desperately to retrieve some kind of achievement in the last 14 months of his administration. Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert have both agreed to come to the rescue and will jointly provide the cover needed.

We all know that the US Administration is too weak to put any meaningful pressure on Israel. The shaky coalition government of Ehud Olmert is too weak to make any substantial concessions to the Palestinians without risking collapse.

The Palestinians are sharply divided thanks to Hamas bloody coup in June 2007 which was orchestrated by remote control from Tehran and Damascus.

History had shown that rushed meetings without a clear agenda, defined objectives and a rigid time-frame for implementation with a mechanism in place to ensure compliance of both sides, are doomed to failure. We all remember Madrid, Oslo, Wye River, Camp David, Sharm Elsheikh, Taba and Aqaba (we all wonder whatever happened to the Road Map). None of those meeting had produced any concrete results. The Only concrete outcome was the Concrete Apartheid Separation Wall.

I am not holding my breath. Failure of the Autumn Conference is guaranteed. My guess is that Mahmoud Abbas will get the blame for the failure of the Conference for demanding too much too quickly.

An Arab broadcaster and writer based in London, UK.

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