The trilateral summit among U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was concluded in Jerusalem Monday without
Actually this result is not at all an unexpected surprise to all
the parties in the summit and the public as well.
Israel maintained contacts with Abbas regarding him as a
moderate while boycotting the Hamas government. The trilateral
summit, which was scheduled during Rice's previous visit to the
region, was meant to restart the diplomatic process. But the unity
government agreement reached between Fatah and Hamas in Mecca last
week posed a dilemma for Israel.
Due to the complications following the Mecca Agreement, Rice
lowered her expectations for the summit one day before it was held
by saying: "What I would consider a success tomorrow is that we
have gotten started." Israel even considered to cancel the proposed
summit before it happened as it decided to reassess its relations
with Abbas due to the Mecca agreement.
Under these circumstances, the summit seems doomed without
substantiality though both Olmert and Abbas had some plans to talk
something very substantial.
Olmert was planning to demand that Abbas obtain the release of
captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit from
Palestinian militant groups, but had no intention of offering Abbas
any goodwill gestures aimed at easing daily life for Palestinian
civilians, such as those that followed the two men's meeting on
Dec. 23, 2006.
Palestinian sources expected that the summit would raise three
issues: implementation of the November 2005 crossings agreement,
the transfer of collected taxes from Israel to Abu Mazen (Abbas)'s
cabinet and the future of the peace process.
All the prepared topics were not mentioned in the statement Rice
read to the press soon after the summit while she said that Abbas
and Olmert affirmed the commitment to a two-state solution and
agreed that a Palestinian state can not be born of violence and
terror and agreed to meet again.
"Nothing substantial came out of the meeting because nothing
substantial could come out of the meeting," said Yossi Klein
Halevi, senior fellow in the Shalem Center's Institute for Zionist
History and Thought.
Describing the summit as "an empty show" of the three parties in
an interview with Xinhua, Halevi said: "All the parties have their
own needs for the meeting: Abbas is trying to get foreign aids and
Quartet's approval of lifting the sanctions. Olmert needs to show
Israeli public that he is capable of diplomatic initiatives. Rice,
who represents a country which is stuck in Iraq, wants to show some
kind of movement and progress in Middle East peace process."
"Actually it is an empty show in the theater of negotiations,"
said Halevi, "Nobody in Israel, probably in Palestine, has any hope
in these leaders and the negotiation."
According to local media, Olmert and Abbas also discussed a
possible extension to a three-month-old cease-fire in the Gaza
Strip to include the West Bank in the summit.
In an interview with Xinhua, Eran Laman, an Israeli expert in
Middle East politics, said that he still believed the summit would
be helpful to limit the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts though it had
not made any breakthrough.
(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2007)