Media Mention of Ghaith al-Omari in The Jerusalem Post - September 25, 2008 - 12:00am

Sep. 25, 2008

US President George W. Bush told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday that the United States has not given up hope on an agreement to create a Palestinian state.

"I appreciate your determination and your desire to have a Palestinian state," Bush told Abbas in front of reporters before a White House meeting. "I share that desire with you. It's not easy."

Bush said the administration will continue to work with Palestinian authorities on security matters and on helping to coordinate international economic assistance.

"As you know, I've got four more months left in office and I'm hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass," he added.

Abbas, seated beside Bush, told the president that he was thankful for US support.

"Hope remains," Abbas said. "We cannot live without hope."

According to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who attended the meeting, Abbas said Palestinians are seeking "a comprehensive agreement on all the issues, without any exception. Either there will be an agreement on all the issues or there will be no agreement."

Ahead of the meeting, both Abbas and Bush stressed the need to continue working for Israeli-Palestinian peace, but made no reference to a previous 2008 deadline for an agreement.

In what some analysts described as a farewell mission, Abbas visited Washington as part of an American tour coinciding with the opening of UN General Assembly in New York.

Earlier this year, there had been indications the US would seek a memorandum of understanding between the Israelis and Palestinians to be presented at this time, or some other outward show of progress between the two parties nearly a year after the Annapolis conference restarted negotiations. But since then Israel has gone through a leadership crisis and talks have dragged on with little sign of outward progress.

Bush seemed to acknowledge the slow place of the process, saying, "No doubt it must be frustrating at times for you, because it's hard work to get a state after all these years. But nevertheless, there is a firm determination on your part and on my part to give the Palestinians a place where there can be dignity and hope."

Abbas thanked the president for his work to achieve peace and recruit international support for reviving the Palestinian economy.

Former Abbas aide Ghaith al-Omari described the meeting as one of maintenance rather than decisiveness, given Israeli political developments and other hindrances to the process.

He said that while chances of an agreement appeared dim, the sides had a vested political interest in keeping the process going.

"You can feel a real concern that they don't want to see it collapse," said Omari, now with the Washington-based American Task Force for Palestine, pointing to a White House meeting as helpful in that respect.

"If Annapolis was on track, this meeting would have a lot of drama, but given that so far that has not been [the case], this meeting will barely make it into the newspapers," said David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Project on the Middle East peace process.

"The value is probably for the leadership to discuss how they would like to hand off the progress that has been made to a new administration," he said.


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