The U.S. State Department has announced that “Secretary Rice will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah November 4-6 to continue her discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to support their ongoing bilateral dialogue and the serious effort underway to draft a joint document that could lay the foundation for negotiations. [n.b., notice the qualifiers] The Secretary will follow up on her recent discussions with the parties on the need for progress on phase one commitments under the Roadmap both to improve conditions on the ground and to build confidence between the parties … ”
What, exactly, does that mean? That Israel must remove a few roadblocks in the West Bank, which it has promised to do for months (while reportedly putting into place a few more…)? And that the Palestinians must do what? Ensure (Israeli) security???
Israeli officials say almost unanimously these days that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is too weak to deliver peace.
So, what do they want? A 100-year truce, many Israelis say, to see if the Palestinians are really serious about making peace. Hamas has proposed only a 10-year truce … but many Israelis appear utterly convinced that, after that, there would only be more attempts to ensure their destruction as a state as well as a nation.
Some Israelis say they agree with the U.S. Administration’s reported intention to force Abbas to appoint the (relatively) young and widely-despised Mahmoud Dahlan as Abbas’ deputy — though they say they would not try to leverage this themselves, having learnt from having been burned by meddling in Palestinian internal affairs in the past (!)
Gaza, they say, will always be ruled by Hamas — Salam Fayyad was completely wrong to say that Hamas was alien to Palestinian culture — and thus Gaza will not be part of the Palestinian State, as Condoleeza Rice has been bravely trying to insist. [They say that Israel tried to give Gaza back to Sadat as part of the 1979 Camp David treaties, but that Sadat was too smart to take it…]Arafat could control Hamas, they say, but Abbas cannot. [Arafat was constantly making deals with Hamas’ Sheikh Ahmad Yassin — that is, until Yassin was murdered by an Israeli air strike that hit him in his wheelchair as he left a mosque in Gaza following the dawn prayers in the spring of 2004…and then Arafat took a sharp turn for the worst and died after being evacuated from the Muqata’a in Ramallah by helicopter and transferred via Jordan to a hospital in Paris.]
But, these Israelis say, perhaps a little coup within Hamas might be just what’s needed — to put the moderates on top, and distance (if not disable) the militants.
That, these Israelis say, could lead to a very comfortable modus vivendi ...
Meanwhile, the Palestinian negotiating team is frustrated, and threatening not to attend a possible peace conference (or “meeting”) that the U.S. government has announced it would host in Annapolis, Maryland, possibly in late November or in December. This peace conference (or “meeting”) would deal only with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rice has said recently. And the Palestinian public is exhausted and utterly unconvinced.
So, how is Condoleeza Rice going to deal with this?
[This post is a slightly edited version of one posted yesterday on our sister site here.]
Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in Jerusalem that “If all goes well, hopefully, we will meet in Annapolis … (But) Annapolis is not made to be the event for the declaration of peace”, according to the Associated Press. In the same story, posted here, AP reported that “Israel supplies about half of Gaza’s electricity through 12 power lines, and defense officials said the gradual cutoffs would not plunge Gaza into total darkness or target vital institutions like hospitals because the lines supplying them would not be closed. [But] Officials from Gaza’s electric company said that wouldn’t be possible, because each power line supplies a broad area and hospitals don’t have separate lines”.
And, just today, the independent Palestinian news agency, Ma’an, reports, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and detained 14 Palestinians in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Jenin, and Ramallah – as U.S. security advisor Lt. General Keith Dayton has reproached the Palestinian police from lagging in deploying in Nablus.
And the independent Palestinian news agency, Ramattan, says that Abbas is planning to disband the Hamas-dominated Paletininian Legislative Council. At least 46 of its members are, actually, already in Israeli detention.