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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Reflections on Bush and Olmert's 'international peace conference'

Back in July, a couple of days after President Bush's speech announcing the 'peace conference' that is now scheduled to take place in November, I noted the following:
At Powerline, Scott notes regarding President Bush's speech last night (Hat Tip: Instapundit):
Among other things, the speech announces a regional conference to be chaired by Secretary Rice and attended by representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. It should be an extremely small meeting.
Indeed. Other than Secretary Rice, if President Bush sticks to what he says I don't expect any non-Israelis there.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems to be willing to do anything to ensure the attendance of a large number of participants, and the Olmert-Barak-Livni government, which will be severely outnumbered at the conference, seems to be willing to play along. The criteria, "nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties" have been thrown out the window.
The U.S. will accede to the Palestinian Authority's demand that it invite Syria and Lebanon to the November regional peace conference in Washington, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' political advisor has told Haaretz.

Nimer Hamad also said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged during a meeting with Abbas on Thursday that the U.S. would invite the monitoring committee of the Arab League to the peace conference. Hamad said that this includes representatives from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and that members of the Middle East Quartet and the G-8 would also take part.


According to Palestinian sources, Saudi Arabia is also pressuring the U.S. to include Syria and Lebanon in the conference. The sources say the Saudis want as many Arab countries as possible to participate at the conference to give its own role Arab legitimacy. Despite Riyadh's pressure, Lebanon is not likely to send a representative to the conference unless Syria does, and therefore the Saudis want the U.S. to invite Syria as well.

However, it is still unclear whether the Saudis themselves intend to participate. Saudi Arabia is said to be examining the possibility of participating as observers only, as it did in Madrid in 1991.
Has Syria accepted Israel's 'right to exist'? Has Lebanon? Has Saudi Arabia? For that matter, have the 'Palestinians'?
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, responding Sunday to Israel's approval of the release of 90 Palestinian prisoners, said there can be no peace agreement while thousands more Palestinians remain in Israeli jails.

"The prisoner issue is at the crux of the peace process, and there can't be an agreement while thousands of prisoners are in Israeli jails," The Associated Press quoted Abbas as saying.
He expects Israel to release all the terrorists even before there is an agreement in place? Or to release them all immediately after an agreement is in place with no period to ensure the 'Palestinians' comply (as if they have ever complied with any 'agreement' they signed)?

Here's what I wrote a couple days after Bush's speech announcing the 'conference':
I also fear that when push comes to shove, the President will waive his conditions to attendance at the conference. Abu Mazen himself does not fulfill them. Neither do the Egyptians or the Jordanians, but no one doubts that they will be invited. And the Saudis never will fulfill the conditions, but you can bet that if they want to be there (which I doubt), they will be there. Weak leaders at international conferences tend to do things out of desperation. Ask Ehud Barak.
But it gets worse. Recall some of the conditions that some of these parties placed on their attendance at the 'conference'. Are these 'conditions' also to be fulfilled?

For example, the Arab League said that it would attend the 'conference' if the Olmert-Barak-Livni government conceded the Golan in advance.

The Saudis, whom Olmert regards as the most important party at the 'conference' have hemmed and hawed about whether they will attend. They have taken their 'peace' plan off the table. Even that miserable concession was too much for them.

Olmert's 'peace partner' at Fatah continues to negotiate with Hamas and will likely reconcile with them as soon as the 'conference' ends.

Olmert has already conceded the Temple Mount, although at least there is some resistance in his own party to Chaim Ramon's plans - likely leaked to save Olmert from the flack - to divide Jerusalem. Whatever agreement may be reached, Abu Mazen will not be able to sell to his 'people' and it will just become the starting point for the next round of 'negotiations'.

The 'conference' is becoming a more and more dangerous proposition by the minute. Israel could find 40-50 countries lined up against it. Who will call out to prevent it from happening?


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