George S. Hishmeh
Gulf News (Opinion)
May 1, 2008 - 5:22pm

Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved." This was the startling yet straightforward statement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after his failure in Washington last week to have the US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice exercise some arms-twisting in the stalled Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Abbas, who is not known to be one who would spill the beans after putting all his eggs in the American basket, was particularly disappointed in a rare press interview (with the Associated Press) that the US has not exerted more pressure on Israel to stop expanding its illegal colonies, even those that Israeli leaders had agreed to dismantle as a first step in implementing the so-called roadmap.

"This is the biggest blight that stands as a big rock in the path of negotiations," the Palestinian leader said. Without hiding his angry tone, he pointed out that "none of (the American leaders) talks about the 1967 border" which Israel crossed more than 60 years ago when it occupied the remaining Palestinian territories, known as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and are only 22 per cent of Palestine.


One thing he did achieve, he believed, was to lay out the Palestinian conditions for any peace deal and press his case that he cannot go for any partial agreement because the Palestinian people would not accept it.

Dr Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator who was with Abbas, told The Palestine Center in Washington, "If we have an agreement by the end of this year and we put the agreement to a national public referendum, I really believe that we will prevail.

But to be candid with you and honest with you, if we don't - and I mean President Abbas and his team - have an agreement by 2008, we stand the chance to disappear."

In the past five months, both the US and Israel have foolishly failed to live up to their commitment at the Annapolis peace conference, as announced by Bush: "We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements," adding that "we agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."

If the United States and Israel continue to refuse to accommodate Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, the consequences of their shortsightedness would mean that they would ultimately have to deal with Hamas, whose popularity is bound to grow despite Israel's bloodthirstiness which this week saw the death of a mother and four infants as they were having breakfast in their Gaza Strip home.

This is not much different from the disastrous US policy in Iraq which is indirectly contributing to the emergence of the Iranian giant in the oil-rich Arabian Gulf region.

Adding to the complications that these blundering policies are creating is Israel's concern about a new administration next year, most likely to be run by the Democratic Party under the leadership of either Senator Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

America's Mideast policy then is not expected to be as one-sided as that of Bush, described as Israel's most fervent supporter among all the previous residents of the White House.

That, in part, explains why 64 per cent of Israelis, according to a recent opinion poll, had favoured their government initiating negotiations with Hamas. This also explains why former US president Jimmy Carter took it upon himself to open talks with Hamas - a stance that he has defended in several media interviews upon his return home.

Carter denial

In the Middle East as elsewhere, he wrote, "the path to peace lies in negotiation, not isolation." (For the record, Carter denied that any US official had given him "any negative or cautionary messages "about the trip, except that it might be dangerous to visit Gaza. In fact, Israel did not allow him to cross over to Gaza.)

Despite expectations to the contrary, Bush still believes that he still has one last chance at inking his legacy with a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal during his upcoming visit to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In Israel, he will celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary but, inexplicably, not hold any joint talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Rather he would meet with Abbas, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II in Sharm-Al-Shaikh, Egypt.


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