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January 15, 2007
Rice, Olmert To Meet Abbas

Condoleezza Rice will extend her contacts with Ehud Olmert to include Mahmoud Abbas in the near future in order to prompt movement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The moderate Arab governments have pushed the US to get more involved in the mediation, and hold out a carrot for us:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice concluded a private three-hour meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday morning, part of her diplomatic visit to the Middle East.

The two decided to hold three-way talks that would include Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, after which they would aim for direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior US official in Rice's delegation said the "trilateral meeting" will be aimed at "having a conversation about the political horizon leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state." He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the record.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, confirmed the prime minister had agreed "in principle" to attend the summit. But she said no date or place had been set.

For the moment, Rice will continue her trip to Jordan and Egypt, two nations that have pressured the US to get a deal cut between Israel and the PA. They have recently expressed some disenchantment with the "road map", preferring the Saudi arrangement of a return to 1967 borders and the end of all settlements in exchange for diplomatic recognition of Israel by all Arab nations. Now they have added more incentives for the Americans, pledging their active assistance in Iraq to calm the sectarian strife there if we can make the peace deal with Israel.

Abbas rejected temporary solutions over the weekend in his meeting with Rice. The Bush administration had floated the notion of skipping to the second phase of the road map, granting Palestinian statehood along temporary borders that reflected the positions of both sides at the moment. The idea was to give the Palestinians a state in order to bolster confidence in the process, but that didn't fly with Fatah or Hamas, who figure that the temporary borders would likely become permanent. They want 1967 at least, and 1944 if they can get it.

It seems hasty to rush into statehood with a governing class that has repeatedly proven that they cannot handle it. Regardless of Arab carrots for the US and Israel, the Palestinians have not produced a government interested in either peace or a two-state solution. In this case, we'd be granting national status to two territories that would already be in a state of war with its neighbor as well as with itself. How does this make sense? Do we want to create a Somalia on the Mediterranean just after Somalia finally may be putting itself to rights?

Let the Palestinians settle their internal conflicts before recognizing them as a state. While that war continues, they cannot reliably enter into agreements with Israel or anyone else, as Hamas proved when it took power last year. Only when they have decided that they want to live in peace in a two-state solution will any of this diplomacy make any difference at all.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 15, 2007 6:42 AM

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