Herb Keinon, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 12, 2007
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to propose "new ideas" to
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during her trip to the region,
according to a statement released by officials from the PA chairman's office
In addition, Abbas is due to suggest an alternate plan for the establishment
of a Palestinian state, namely, a temporary state in accordance with the
route of the security fence, the officials said.
On Thursday, diplomatic sources said that the US administration was
concerned by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's weak public standing and unsure of
what or how much he can deliver, on the eve of Rice's journey.
According to the sources, Olmert's political woes have undermined his
stature in the eyes of the administration, and although he is liked
personally in Washington he is not deemed a leader with the political
capital able to deliver - an assessment similar to the one Washington has of
Rice rejects dialogue with Iran, Syria
For this reason, according to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, it was
unlikely that Rice would be carrying any dramatic initiative with her on her
current visit. Instead, her trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority has
been described as a "fact-finding" mission designed to determine what can
realistically be expected, considering the complicated domestic situations
facing both Abbas and Olmert.
Rather than coming here with a concrete plan or with the intention of trying
to impose anything on the parties, Rice was expected to concentrate on
trying to achieve progress in specific areas, such as improving the
humanitarian situation in the territories and looking for ways to curb
Rice, who was last here in the beginning of October, is scheduled to arrive
Saturday night and hold separate meetings with Defense Minister Amir Peretz,
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Foreign Minister Tzipi
Both Peretz and Livni - independent of Olmert - have recently floated
diplomatic plans that are variations on the Quartet-
backed road map. Rice is expected to try to clarify these positions to get a
clearer sense of Israeli government policy.
A State Department official declined to comment on whether the various plans
coming out of Israel were adding confusion to the American diplomatic
efforts, saying, "We're confident that we can move the process forward
The official said that the road map "remains the agreed-upon process for
advancing the peace process, and obviously we
want to engage the parties to work very hard on implementing the
requirements of the road map." In terms of Rice offering new initiatives, he
said, "I don't think that's a direction we're heading in."
Meanwhile, President of Palestinian Authority's Hamas-led government, Ismail
Haniyeh, said Rice's visit is meant to bypass the chosen leaders of the
"This visit is part of American-Zionists efforts to bypass the results of
the elections, but the Palestinian nation will not accept this external
interference before its eyes," Haniyeh said.
Rice is scheduled to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday, and then go to
Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah. She will return to Jerusalem that
evening and meet with Olmert on Monday. From there she will go to Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
Her meetings in the Arab countries are expected to concentrate on Iran as
well as what those countries can do to provide more assistance to Abbas.
This will be Rice's first visit to the region since the Baker-Hamilton
report recommended more intensive US engagement to solve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli sources said that politically, the
administration "wants to show that they're trying everything they can."
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.
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