Will the conference be held in Annapolis on November 27? Still possible, but looking less likely.
Khaled Abu Toameh is reporting in the Post that PA officials are saying they are doubtful that a joint statement on principles can be agreed upon before the gathering. Obviously Rice doesn’t expect this statement to materialize, because it seems she’s not coming back here before Annapolis, as she was supposed to do.
Israeli officials are being more explicit : They now say the Palestinians "have backpedaled to square one, to the first day of negotiations."
Abu Toameh further reports that Abbas was just in Saudi Arabia; according to Jamal Shubaki, PA representative in Saudi Arabia, Abbas told King Abdullah that he was pessimistic about chances of success at the conference and said he would rather resign than fail there. According to Shubaki, the king agreed that Israel wasn’t sincere in efforts to make peace. If the king did say this, then it would be unlikely that the Saudis would want to attend — and this was something that has been important to the Americans.
But negotiator Saeb Erekat said that while there were difficulties in the negotiations, it was too soon to talk of crisis.
Said Olmert, during his meeting here today with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, "Annapolis cannot be a failure because the fact that it is taking place is a success unto itself." That’s an interesting spin. A sign of expectations that it will fail.
The Palestinians, of course, are placing responsibility for possible failure on us. Said Shubaki: "The Palestinians are unhappy with the Israeli position because Israel hasn’t done anything so far to make the conference succeed." He speaks about the need for the US to put additional pressure on Israel. And there are ever more demands on us being put forth.
This negotiating ploy really enrages me.
What has the PA done? Made a cosmetic attempt to secure law and order with those 300 security people deployed in Nablus. The irony here is this is something they should be doing in earnest anyway as a function of their responsibility to their own people.
And we? We’re constantly making "good faith" gestures that are supposed to keep the Palestinian street happy. We’ve let out prisoners and reduced roadblocks. Now they want more:
They’ve asked for the release of 2,000 additional prisoners and word is that Olmert is thinking of letting out 450 or 500. This will be raised at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.
They want more checkpoints taken down.
They want the PLO to be able to operate in eastern Jerusalem again, which request Olmert is — most regrettably and dangerously — said to be considering.
Under heavy pressure from the US , Israel has also frozen settlement expansion.
Kouchner said today that settlements are the "biggest obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians." But — as often as this canard is repeated — it just isn’t so. The obstacle is the refusal of the Palestinians and much of the Arab world to allow us to exist here in peace as a Jewish state.
Neither, by the way, are the settlements illegal . And when time allows I would like to return to this issue and its historical/legal background.
Meanwhile, Al Hayat in London is reporting that Olmert has agreed in private conversation with Abbas to take in 20,000 Palestinian refugees. Is it true? Don’t know.
G-d forbid. It would be a horror. Not only the taking in of 20,000 hostile people (the refugees are the most radicalized), but the acknowledgement that we somehow are responsible for the situation of more than 4 million so-called refugees — rather than UNRWA and Arab states that have kept them in miserable limbo for 60 years. It would be a Pandora’s box.
The whole objection on the part of the Palestinians to our insisting on their recognizing us as a Jewish state is supposed to be because this precludes return.
Something else that really irks: A report has been released by Turkey regarding a mission that came in March to see what was happening with excavations at the Mughrabi Gate outside the Temple Mount. It claims that this represents a "pre-planned effort to destroy the Muslim nature of the Old City." We’re trying to "Judaize" the Mount, you see. (That part doesn’t irk so much as amuse, it’s so ridiculous.)
Israel ‘s response was clear and forthright: "Israel is cooperating fully with UNESCO, which had sent a professional team to the site of the dig and published a report refuting all the allegations against Israel."
And we’re supposed to have good relations with Turkey.
According to information leaked to the Sunday Times (London), the Winograd report will blame Olmert for the last 60 hours of the Lebanon war, and for the 33 deaths that ensued. I had just read that the report was due out in two weeks, now I read "by the end of the year." It cannot come out soon enough for me, for it will further destabilize Olmert’s position.
There was considerable debate recently about the fact that the Winograd report wasn’t going to name names. But in this instance, it appears to not be the case. Unfortunately, the Winograd Committee is structured (on purpose) so that it does not have the authority to recommend dismissals or resignations.