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Abbas - Sharon summit postponed - No surprise there.


The summit meeting between Israel PM Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been postponed, at least until Abbas returns from the USA. This was a wise and inevitable move, since they have nothing to discuss anyhow.

As noted previously in these pages, Abbas and Sharon are stuck in a kind of vaporlock due to pressures from extremists in their own camp, which are justified in turn by intransigence of the opposite side, which are due in turn to pressures from extremists. Sharon can't grant any concessions until Abbas disarms the Hamas. Abbas can't disarm the Hamas because he can't get Sharon to grant any concessions. The Israeli right points to the terror groups. Hamas points to the continued occupation and the prisoners in jail. Both Abbas and Sharon are before elections. Let's not kid ourselves. Both of them are surviving by the skin of their teeth and they know it. True, the Fatah won a big "victory" in the last election over the Hamas, but that election was in the West Bank, where Fatah is weak and didn't contest many of the local spots.

The summit, when it happens, isn't going to be about final status or Geneva accord or Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state or Right of Return. All those thorny issues we learn, have been laid aside. Since there must be negotiations, and there must be "progress" the sides have agreed on essentially harmless and meaningless concessions that they will demand from each other:

Commenting on the Palestinians' hopes for the summit, Erekat said they were seeking the release of 20 prisoners who have each spent more than 20 years in Israeli jails and an Israeli troop pullback from West Bank cities, beginning in Bethlehem.
According to a PA source, the Palestinian demands focus on four main points: the release of long-serving prisoners who were incarcerated before the Oslo Accords; the release of two "special" prisoners - an elderly detainee, and detainee suffering from a terminal illness; an arrangement that would allow the Church of the Nativity deportees to return to their homes in the West Bank; and the transfer of additional territory to the PA, with Ramallah and Hebron taking top priority.

So maybe there are two demands and maybe there are four. On the Israeli side, there is apparently a demand for a real crack-down on terror groups. We learn the following, according to the article:

Releasing 20 prisoners is not going to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. It isn't even a baby step in the right direction. Withdrawing from one or two cities won't help either, if history repeats itself. Within a week there will be a suicide bombing designed to torpedo the peace, and the cities will be reoccupied. Meanwhile, Israel will arrest 40 new prisoners in a security sweep, taking the place of the 20 that were released.

For his part, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is adamantly against supplying the Palestinians with arms and handing over security responsibility for additional West Bank cities in the near future. Mofaz believes the PA has yet to prove its commitment to combating terror. Without such action, Mofaz believes there is no justification for taking such risks at present.

Mofaz is against giving the Palestinians more arms, but the Palestinians didn't ask for more arms -- not publicly. It wouldn't do for Erekat to say they are asking Israel for weapons to use against the Hamas, would it?

Apparently, nobody wants these meetings except the Americans, because neither side is willing to bring anything to the table. The problem is solved by discussing what are essentially trivia, and then agreeing only to continue discussions about the discussions. Accordingly, committees were set up. This is a sure sign that nothing real is going to happen. An Israel Prime Minister's Office press release announces: "Joint Israeli-Palestinian Statement on Establishment of Joint Committees." According to the announcement "It was agreed that after PA Chairman Abu Mazen returns from Washington, the
two leaders would meet in order to evaluate the committees' progress." Presumably, they will agree to meet in order to discuss establishing more committees to monitor the committees.

Read it and weep.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000388.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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