Media Mention of Hussein Ibish in Xinhua - July 6, 2010 - 12:00am

The diplomatic activities in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Washington on Monday and Tuesday is nothing more than theater, according to an analyst.

The political science professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ira Sharkansky, was highly dismissive of the meeting on Monday in Jerusalem between Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Likewise, Sharkansky expected little more than showmanship when United States President Barack Obama hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday.

However, Hussein Ibish, senior fellow with the U.S. Task Force on Palestine, takes a very different view, warning Israelis not to be dismissive of Fayyad or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, both of whom are being taken very seriously by the United States, he told Xinhua on Monday.

In addition to the Fayyad-Barak meeting, Israel's Defense Ministry on Monday announced the details of a relaxation in the types of goods that may be brought into the Gaza Strip, in a way of releasing a list of banned goods that are not allowed to enter the enclave.

The details of the announcement are understood to have been discussed during the meeting between Fayyad and Barak.

Even though Palestinians and Israelis are currently only involved in indirect peace talks, Fayyad and Barak met very publicly in Jerusalem's King David Hotel to discuss areas of cooperation and concern.

Much of the session focused on security matters. In recent months, the Palestinians have been taken on much more of the security role in the West Bank, the territory controlled by Abbas' PNA.

Fayyad told reporters on his return to Ramallah that he had also called for greater freedom for the PNA to operate unhindered throughout the West Bank.

Despite, or perhaps because of the photographed handshake between Fayyad and Barak, Sharkansky believed the parley was little more than a well coordinated photo-op scheduled to coincide with Netanyahu's departure for his Tuesday date in the White House. In his opinion, some of the diplomatic activities on Monday are just "treading water."

However, Ibish saw these comments from Sharkansky, others from Israeli hawks and indeed those from Palestinian extremists as a sign that they are either panicking or unaware of the reality, which is that the messages carried by Fayyad and Abbas are being warmly received in Washington.

Not only that but the Washington-based Ibish believed that fruits are being borne as a result of Fayyad's year-long program of building up his ministry into a serious force along with other Palestinian institutions.

His policies are bringing with them serious investment in the Palestinian economy and realizing just how serious Fayyad is, the Israelis have removed an estimated 20 percent of their checkpoints during the last 12 months.

The very fact that Fayyad is under fire from people like Sharkansky "is a measure of his growing success," Ibish said.

As for Tuesday's session in the White House, Sharkansky agreed that Obama is a serious player, however, he added that given the upcoming congressional mid-term elections, Obama is far more concerned with the U.S. economy and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill than he is with events in the Middle East.

As a result, there will be a round of handshakes but beyond that is a questionable area.

However, Ibish noted that "Obama is actually very interested in this issue."

"It's true that he is dealing with many problems but the fundamental analysis in Washington is that the key to generalized success in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, is to start doing something positive and this analysis has not changed," he said.

While there may be no concrete news to emanate from the Washington talks, there are rumors in the United States that Obama will shortly announce that he intends to visit Israel at some point.

Israeli analysts said that announcing the intention to fly to the Jewish state may win the Democrats more votes in the upcoming mid-terms.


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