Samir Barhoum
The Jordan Times (Editorial)
October 4, 2007 - 2:53pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unfortunately seem to have very different ideas about what the proposed November meeting in the US on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is about.

Abbas wants that meeting to lead to the signing of a peace agreement in six months. Olmert, on the other hand, wants yet another process and is keen to emphasise, as he did yesterday, that the Annapolis meeting is “not a peace conference”.

Olmert’s position is understandable. He is a weak leader facing domestic problems that may end his premiership. He is under investigation for two alleged financial fraud cases and looks ahead with trepidation to the final findings of the Winograd commission’s inquiry into his handling of the outrageous war his country conducted last year in Lebanon.

Furthermore, Israel is not facing any serious security threat at the moment from the Palestinians, and is able to continue its settlement expansion policy and the ongoing project of dividing Palestinians into ghettos without any condemnation from the international community, especially the US. Why rock the boat?

Abbas, meanwhile, is under similar but opposite pressure. He needs, at the pain of his political survival, to show tangible progress at Annapolis. Without such progress, Palestinians will be hard pushed to understand why he continues to pursue his current path.

Another statement of principles will be neither here nor there. If it is not accompanied by real movement on the ground, Hamas will have won the argument: Israel does not negotiate in good faith.

Furthermore, this tangible progress has to be instant. There has to be an unequivocal and immediate end to settlement expansions. There has to be an end to the building of the illegal wall that Israel is constructing in and around the West Bank. There has to be a significant, rather than superficial, easing of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians and their goods, both within and without the West Bank, as well as to and from Gaza.

And there has to be a prisoner release that is not mere cosmetics. There are over 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. To release only 87 is close to an insult.

Only one country can thus ensure Abbas’ survival, but Washington needs to start taking seriously its self-appointed remit as objective mediator. It simply has to put pressure on Israel to start acting in the interest of peace.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017