News has broken that Olmert and Abbas have been meeting to work out a framework for the "core" issues of refugees, Jerusalem and borders before the conference proposed by Bush takes place in November. This ran first in Yediot Ahronot, which cited sources close to Abbas.
This is the same Olmert, you understand, who said he would not discuss these issues yet. And, of course, he’s talking to Abbas, who promised he’d have nothing to do with Hamas and yet is meeting with them.
It’s Abbas’s growing interaction with Hamas that takes the edge of this whole business, because it seems likely to make everything fall apart.
PA prime minister Fayyad has denied the Yediot Ahronot report. He says there are no "backchannel" negotiations, although core issues are beginning to be discussed.
According to YNet, in his meeting with Hoyer and other Congressman in the delegation this week, Olmert said that an agreement, which was in the works, would not be implemented yet.
In truth, even if they are talking, it is highly unlikely that Abbas and Olmert are close to an agreement that could be implemented. Abbas will hold out for his terms. Even the maximum Olmert might offer would not be something Abbas could sell to his people, especially as they have become more radicalized under Hamas influence: control of eastern Jerusalem, return to pre-’67 lines and right of return remain sacred principles for the Palestinians. It is a mistake to think that Abbas will moderate in negotiations. It was Arafat’s refusal to budge on issues of refugees and Jerusalem that halted the negotiations in 2000, in spite of the huge package Barak was offering; and, which is little noted, Arafat’s deputy, Mahmoud Abbas was at his side making the same demands.
I do not believe a Palestinian state will evolve from this. But I think it heads us in a bad and dangerous direction that sets worrisome precedents and diminishes Israeli rights. In the short-run, it also creates security risks.
As Aaron Lerner points out, this is no time for complacency. We must be on our guard for dangerous possibilities. http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=35679
The irony here — and it’s a bitter irony — is that Abbas and company have done absolutely nothing to merit this sort of negotiation that we’re in such a rush to offer. Abbas’s biggest achievement is not being Hamas.
According to a Peace Index poll taken in July, 53% of Israelis are opposed to substantial withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, even if major settlement blocs are kept in place.
US Under-Secretary of State Burns, who is here, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel, to provide us with a military package worth an unprecedented $30 billion over 10 years. This was designed, at least in part, to buy us off with regard to the military aid that the US proposes providing to Saudi Arabia, as well as to promote a qualitative military edge for Israel.
Meetings are being held between Israeli and US officials to determine what Israel will be permitted to buy from the US (money given goes towards buying this equipment — over 75% must go back to the US in purchases) and what the Saudis will be prevented from purchasing.
Aaron Lerner has made the comment that Egypt is doing a substantial weapons build-up that can only be aimed at Israel, and that this should also be taken into consideration.