Tricky Steering Ahead On Path To Peace Pact

Tricky Steering Ahead On Path To Peace Pact
November 29th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Tricky Steering Ahead On Path To Peace Pact

Tricky Steering Ahead On Path To Peace Pact
USA Today
November 29, 2007
Pg. 6
U.S. names Mideast security envoy as historic summit ends
By David Jackson and Richard Wolf, USA Today
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration appointed a Middle East security envoy Wednesday as delegates from this week's peace conference returned home to confront the many challenges ahead.
"No matter how important yesterday was, it's not nearly as important as tomorrow and the days beyond," President Bush said while flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appointed former NATO commander James Jones as envoy to help with Middle East security, including the development of Palestinian Authority security forces. "Building security in the Middle East is the surest path to making peace" she said.
Bush, Abbas and Olmert met at the White House a day after addressing the Annapolis, Md., conference at which the Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed to restart talks that have been dormant since 2000 — beginning Dec. 12 and with the goal of reaching an agreement by the end of 2008. Analysts said that won't be easy.
"There's going to be political, economic, social and security issues that have to be dealt with," said Anthony Zinni, a former Middle East adviser in the Bush administration.
Some of the challenges are familiar: the precise borders of a new Palestinian state, Palestinian efforts to curb terrorism, Israeli efforts to pull back Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem and the question of whether Palestinian refugees can return to their original homes in Israel.
The conference raised more issues and produced more questions than answers:
•What role will the United States play, including Bush and Rice?
The agreement between Olmert and Abbas calls for Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States to create a "mechanism" for monitoring compliance with the 2003 peace plan known as the "road map." The plan calls for Israel to return land to the Palestinians while the Palestinian Authority cracks down on terrorism. The United States is called upon to "monitor and judge" that compliance.
If Bush is serious about holding Israelis and Palestinians accountable "then that is something I have not heard before," said Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
During a brief statement in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, Bush said he had assured both leaders that "the United States will be actively engaged in the process" and help them make "necessary decisions" toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
Philip Wilcox, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said the Bush administration must be an "honest broker" and cannot be effective "if we defer to Israel's policies, as we usually have in the past."
The challenge for Bush and Rice, said Mustafa Barghouthi, former Palestinian Authority minister of communications, is "how not to be biased."
•How will Abbas deal with the threat from Hamas?
The militant Islamist group Hamas controls the Palestinian area of Gaza, effectively splitting the prospective country in two. Gaza residents demonstrated against the Annapolis meeting.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the people of Gaza need to be shown real progress toward a workable Palestinian state. "People want to see deeds," he said. "They don't want to hear words."
Clayton Swisher, author of the book The Truth About Camp David and a producer for the Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera, said Hamas must be dealt into the negotiations, along with Syria and Iran. He said many Palestinians see Abbas as "America's and Israel's agent on this."
•How will Olmert persuade the Israeli parliament and public?
Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program with the Center for Strategic & International Studies, said the Israeli prime minister faces strong opposition from his constituents. "Can he really stop settlement expansion? Can he really make a deal ceding land to the Palestinians? I don't think he can," Alterman said.
Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said compromises on territory will make many Israelis "sad and angry." Still, she said, the majority of Israelis "support a resolution."
Nahum Barnea, a senior political analyst for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said the breakthrough might not have happened if Abbas, Olmert and Bush were politically strong. Instead, he said, they have "very little to lose" and the "freedom and liberty to engage in an adventure."
•Will Arab involvement help or hurt the process?
Saudi Arabia attended the conference to push a peace plan that calls for Israel to cede the Golan Heights back to Syria. Lebanon also has border disputes with Israel.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, called Arab states the key to peace. "They have to stand up and say, 'We support Palestinian moderates. We support peace,' " he said. Arabs, he said, may re-evaluate their stance toward Israel because of the ambitions of a nation that didn't attend the conference: Iran.

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