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Contentions

Re: Rice Peel-Off

As David wrote here yesterday, Condi Rice’s visit to Israel is barely a news item worthy of mentioning. Her press conference with Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was dull and fruitless:

Livni rejected the claims that the ongoing construction projects were impeding the negotiations. “You can’t allow noise affect the diplomatic proceedings. That is what I said during the days of terror attacks, and that is what I am saying today.

“Leaders must be committed to a way and to a goal, these noises existed during the days of terror attacks from Gaza must not get in the way. We are involved in serious, continuous negotiations all the time. There are disparities, but we are not where we were a year ago.”

The secretary also addressed the contentious issue. “I think it’s no secret, and I have said it to my Israeli counterparts, that I don’t think that settlement activity is helpful,” Rice said.

The big question is: why did she come? Some conspiratorial observers believe that something must be cooking. It’s impossible to imagine such a waste of time without any purpose. However, these are the guesses of the frustrated few, trying to find clues and failing. No-one was able to report any fact supporting such suspicions.

And as Aluf Benn reports, Israel’s internal political battle is all that matters now to most actors on the scene. Not even Rice can convince a politician to think about substance when his political future is at stake:

Olmert faces opposition from both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. In their view, Israel must not rush. Livni believes that detailed negotiations must continue on all issues, and that Israel should avoid an unclear agreement. She also supports deferring resolution of the Jerusalem quagmire. Barak has warned against dangerous illusions, at a time when the gap between the two sides remain substantial.

The respective political interests of all those involved is obvious. Olmert is due to step down and wants to end his shortened tenure with a diplomatic achievement. Livni and Barak, who will soon face voters in elections, would prefer to wait for him to go. The prime minister rejects their criticism. His aides say that he is not rushing, and will not relinquish any essential Israeli interests for the sake of a mere document. The principles of the agreement are clear, the aides say, all those involved in it favor the agreement, and it would be a shame to miss this opportunity because of domestic political differences.

As I noted two weeks ago, if Olmert somehow manages to accomplish something in the talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the White House will face an interesting dilemma: will it support an agreed document opposed by most Israelis?



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