U.S., PA and Israel: Different Agendas for Summit

Condoleezza Rice has succeeded in forcing Israel and the PA to attend next week’s summit– but their agendas still differ.

Hana Levi Julian,

Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has succeeded in forcing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to attend next week’s summit– but their agendas still differ. 

The summit which was originally intended to begin a friendly dialogue on setting parameters for an independent Palestinian state has now morphed into a not-so-friendly talk about the impending new unity PA government. Rice is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Saturday, and the talks will be held Monday in Jerusalem.

The PA Agenda
Abbas’ signature on the agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization that already leads the PA made it clear that his Fatah faction had caved in to the Hamas agenda. It also raised serious concerns about whether he has the power to enforce whatever deals he might make with Israel and the U.S.

The PA unity pact which is expected to be implemented shortly says nothing about the new government recognizing the State of Israel, renouncing terrorism or upholding agreements signed with Israel by previous PA governments.

Moreover, Hamas has deliberately reiterated that the new PA government, again to be led by the terrorist organization under the Mecca agreement, will not recognize the Jewish State and will not stop terrorist operations.

According to the Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri has asserted that the Mecca agreement proves that the Arab and Islamic world accepts the terrorist organization as it is, and that "international legitimization" will be a logical next step.

For the past year, Abbas has maintained that he would not agree to build a coalition without those three conditions in place.

Nonetheless, the chairman of the Fatah terrorist group says he still intends to pursue an agenda which will include a final settlement to include Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, establishment of Jerusalem as the PA state capital, the ‘right of return’ for Arabs who left Israeli lands as well as other issues.

The Israeli Agenda
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be coming to the table with an entirely different set of priorities.

Abbas’ capitulation on the Hamas-Fatah unity deal signed last week in Mecca has prompted Israel to reassess its commitment to making concessions at the upcoming summit.

The prime minister met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and intelligence agency heads Tuesday night to begin preparations for the talks.

Senior government sources said Olmert will place the release of kidnapped IDF officer Gilad Shalit, who was grabbed by PA Hamas terrorists last June, high on the agenda.

“Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nom de guerre) can no longer evade responsibility for the release of Shalit if he sits with Hamas in the same government,” said the source.

Equally important to the Israeli team will be the issue of the Mecca agreement. Olmert has said that the new unity government is not much different than the previous Hamas government voted in by the PA streets a year ago.

“The chances that there will be talk of a political horizon…..given that a Fatah-Hamas government is waiting in the wings, are not high,” added the source.

The goodwill gestures which were so prominent during Olmert’s meeting with Abbas in December won’t be offered this time around, said government officials. Items not on the Olmert agenda are those which Abbas intends to place on the table as primary issues.

U.S. Expectations
The U.S. Secretary of State has no illusions that next week’s summit will bring any breakthroughs to Israel-PA relations -- nor has the U.S. Congress.

A key American legislator has blocked approval of a request by the Bush administration for$86 million that was promised to Abbas to help train and equip Fatah security forces.

"It is imperative that we have a fuller understanding of exactly what the funding is for and what the situation is on the ground, said U.S. Representative Nita Lowey.

The New York Democrat, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said last week that the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement "raised additional questions" about where the funding would go and how it would be used by the PA.

The head of the U.S. mission to the United Nations, Alejandro Wolff, said during a meeting at the U.N. Security Council that the American agenda is still open.

“I can tell you that any time I’ve seen an agenda that the secretary of state wants to undertake…….all issues are discussed,” Wolff told Reuters.

Rice is set to arrive in Jerusalem on Saturday, and will spend the weekend holding separate talks with Olmert and Abbas prior to the three-way summit.

It is expected that the secretary of state will take a firm tone with Abbas over the deal he signed in Mecca.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Rice may tell Abbas that next week’s talks will be the last, for a long time, depending on how the new PA unity government is formed.

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