Neither side can be seen scuttling negotiations, experts say.
Washington — When the fat lady sings on Sept. 26, it may only be an intermission.
That’s the word from an array of Mideast experts across the political spectrum. They are predicting that the seeming intractability between Israel and the Palestinians over whether Israel extends a settlement moratorium beyond its end date will not scuttle the peace talks.
Instead, the observers say, the sides are likely employing the brinksmanship that has come to characterize Middle East peacemaking.
Isaac Molho — a pragmatic deal broker
and Netanyahu’s longtime personal attorney —
is widely respected as Israel’s chief negotiator.
Tel Aviv — As Israel-Palestinian peace talks resume for the first time since 2008, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be relying on his longtime personal attorney Isaac Molho to broker the deal of his life.
Israel’s chief negotiator to the peace talks, a highly respected Jerusalem corporate lawyer who stays out of the media spotlight regarding his political work, was first drafted by Netanyahu into diplomacy back in the 1990s as an emissary to Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and as a delegate to the Wye Plantation talks.
Hebron shooting of four settlers seen as attempt to derail negotiations; Israelis say it highlights security needs.
It was no coincidence that the terror attack Tuesday in which four Israelis were ambushed in the West Bank and shot dead at point-blank range in their car occurred just two days before direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were to begin in Washington after a 20-month hiatus.
That was the view of Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, moments after news of the slayings flashed across Israeli newspaper websites.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will fail to reach a lasting peace agreement with Israel, leading to another conflict in the Middle East, Sen. Charles Schumer predicted Sunday at a breakfast with Jewish leaders.
Noting that the prospects for Israel-Palestinian peace hinge on whether Abbas can crack down on terrorist factions and form a government committed to coexistence, Schumer said in his opinion, the answer is “frankly, no.”
President George W. Bush may be in for a rude awakening when he arrives in Israel on Wednesday.
“If President Bush is coming here expecting to talk about [the] Annapolis [summit conference], the Iran report killed it,” said Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University.
As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators worked this week on a joint statement ahead of their upcoming Annapolis summit, the Arab League prepared to meet Friday in Cairo to discuss which if any of them would attend the meeting. And Israeli political observers scoffed at the whole thing.
“It’s a total waste of time,” said David Newman, a professor of political geography at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Palestinian President Yasir Arafat refused in a letter this week to accede to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s request to link the Wye River accord to the final-status talks. But an Israeli political scientist said the issue is far from resolved.
“It’s still subject to negotiation and we won’t know the outcome for a couple of months,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Wednesday that Barak and Arafat would meet later this week in an effort to resolve their differences.
The Israeli cabinet met again Wednesday to finally ratify the Wye peace accords. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attached conditions that could delay full implementation of the land-for-peace agreement hammered out with American help.
One of the conditions is an understanding that the entire peace process could be ended should Palestinian President Yasir Arafat unilaterally declare a Palestinian state next May, as he has promised to do.
Although it is too early to call it a breakthrough, the upbeat assessment of Wednesday’s summit in the Gaza Strip between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat sets the stage for talks next week in Washington between the two leaders and President Bill Clinton.
There were a number of signals early this week that a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat may take place while both men are here to address the United Nations General Assembly. It would be their first in 11 months.