Foreign Policy Blogs

Actions Speak Louder Than Words, an Update on Israel/Palestine


Three months ago, President Bush announced a lofty goal: Peace will be achieved and a two state solution will be at hand by the end of his term. This blog has urged President Bush and Secretary Rice to remain deeply engaged with negotiations. Three months later and it is clear that has not happened. More worrisome, is the judgment not to push for final-status issues, particularly Jerusalem.

Olmert and Abbas met Tuesday in another round of talks. Palestinian chief negotiator Sa'eb Eerkat said the meeting did not include final-status issues. "Instead, he expected the talks to focus on day-to-day areas of concern, such as Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip." Frankly, this sounds like a stall tactic.

First, Prime Minister Olmert previously declared that any construction in the West Bank must go through his office. The Israeli delegation is aware that further construction undermines Abbas and provides a false sticking point (effectively blocking more pertinent issues). Second, the barrage of rockets from Gaza are launched by Hamas, who are not part of negotiations. Fatah, whose forces fled Gaza in the summer (and based on this report aren't exactly happy with their leadership), have no control over the rockets. Of course, Israel knows that both of these issues undermine Fatah, therefore it begs the question, what are their intentions?

idf.jpgTo be fair, the rockets raining down on Sderot are a grave issue that must be addressed. One might expect an IDF offensive into Gaza to stem the problem. This morning, Defense Minister Barak signaled plans of an offensive against Hamas in Gaza. What, if anything, can Fatah agree to with regards to rockets coming from Gaza? Again, it seems like a stall tactic.

The United States is the key to a breakthrough. Israel and the PA both have hardened positions, which need be pushed along by President Bush and Condoleezza Rice. It is very unlikely that concessions will come about without their help. Unfortunately, the United States is doing just the opposite.

"A senior Jerusalem source said Monday that Olmert and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had agreed to defer talks on Jerusalem to the final stage of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

The source said Olmert and Rice had talked on the telephone about a week and a half ago, and that Rice accepted Olmert's position that discussing Jerusalem at the very beginning could jam the negotiations and obstruct them."

These signs do not bode well for the President's goal. If deference on final-status issues continue, do not expect peace to be at hand anytime soon.