Akiva Eldar, a senior correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, who appears to spend an inordinate amount of time having discussions at the Palestinian Presidential Headquarters, the Muqata’a, in Ramallah, wrote recently that “On the eve of the trip to the Annapolis summit, a penetrating debate was held at the Muqata on the question of whether Mahmoud Abbas should participate in the George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert show. At the last moment the Palestinians discovered that the Israeli prime minister had retracted his promise that the conference document would address at least one of the core issues specifically, and in a binding manner. The opponents said that they were tired of the Israelis’ empty promises to dismantle roadblocks, evacuate outposts and be more generous about freeing prisoners. They warned that another fruitless peace gathering would be a disappointment that the Palestinian public would not be able to tolerate, and spoke about how Hamas would celebrate the farce in Annapolis. The argument that tipped the balance in the end was that without the conference in Maryland, there would be no donors conference in Paris. Economic distress overcame political distress”.
In the same article, Eldar also proffered this information: “Olmert cited political constraints as his excuse for refusing to mention the June 4, 1967 borders in the Annapolis declaration, and for refusing to commit to a time frame for concluding the negotiations. He explained that Avigdor Lieberman had threatened to take his party Yisrael Beitenu out of the government and to bring about early elections”. Akiva Eldar’s inside insights were published in Haaretz here.