DEBKAfile Exclusive: Rice counts on Israeli â€œglimmerings of a Palestinian stateâ€ to ward off anti-US moves on Iraq and Iran at coming Arab summit
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice holds talks in Israel and the Palestinian Authority Monday, March 26, after kicking off her latest Middle East tour at a conference with the foreign ministers of the â€œArab Quartetâ€ – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE – in Aswan, Egypt, Sat. March 24.
She will also meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who will make the same rounds of Israel and Palestinian leaders after landing in Israel Sat. night aboard a special Qatari flight. American correspondents in the Rice party reports her â€œnew political horizonâ€ will call on Israel to give the Palestinians â€œthe glimmerings of a Palestinian stateâ€ and the Arabs to offer what DEBKAfileâ€™s sources call â€œglimpses of recognition.â€ This semantic diplomacy is designed to elicit from the Olmert government far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians.
According to DEBKAfileâ€™s Middle East sources, the US secretaryâ€™s plan faces half a dozen obstacles:
1. The nebulous concept of political horizon was espoused by President Bill Clinton and two US secretaries of state, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, for seven years without even slightly denting the Israel-Palestinian dispute.
2. This failure of US and European diplomats to contrive an end to the dispute â€“ or even to Palestinian violence in the form of suicidal terrorism â€“ looms larger than ever, considering the conflict is two years older than the Iraq war.
The plan to skip the first provisions of the Middle East road map, which call for an end to Palestinian violence, and jump straight to the final status talks, while leaving the Palestinians committed to â€œresistance in all formsâ€, is interesting but not workable. As always happened in the past, some Palestinian act of terror will be sure to torpedo any peace moves,
3. A â€œnew political horizonâ€ plan might have stood a chance if Israel had won the Lebanon war against Hizballah last summer â€“ in other words, beaten Iran on the Lebanese and Gaza Strip battlefields.
Since this did not happen, Iran, its Lebanese and radical Palestinian proxies – Jihad Islami, Hamas and factions of the Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades – are left with enough leverage to veto any progress achieved in US-Arab led diplomacy.
4. The Palestinian and Israeli leaders on whom Washington is banking to lead the way to the â€œnew political horizonsâ€ are both short of the domestic clout for carrying through real motion.
5. The Palestinian unity government has not bridged the deep Hamas-Fatah dispute or ended the violence between them. It is expected to survive on paper up until the Arab summit conference opening in Riyadh on March 28. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas will exploit the â€œsuccessfulâ€ unity formula for all his worth to extract a maximum of international recognition and the loosening of purse-strings for the Hamas-led government, hoping to deflect Hamas from beating his Fatah by force of arms.
At the same time, the hard-line Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and prime minister Ismail Haniyeh will make their first appearance as Palestinian representatives at the Arab summit.
6. Behind the â€œnew political horizonâ€ is a strenuous Saudi diplomatic drive based on the concept that wide-ranging Israeli concessions to the Palestinians will wean Syrian president Bashar Assad, Hizballah and Hamas away from their alliance with Tehran. There is not the slightest sign of this happening. Just the reverse: Assad, Hassan Nasrallah, Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh are making hay from the double boost of solid Iranian support and the blandishments of US-backed Arab rulers.
Condoleezza Rice cannot look forward to much progress on the Israel-Palestinian diplomatic front, but her current Middle East tour may prevent the Arab summit in Riyadh carrying resolutions that contradict outright Washingtonâ€™s Iraq and Iranian policies.