Don't be fooled by the 'very constructive' talks today. Olmert is not about to grant anything Abbas can use as leverage with Hamas in Gaza.
The "Oasis" Casino Partly Owned by Abbas' PA
Contributed by Lucia
"The Intercontinental Hotel in Jericho where Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, met today is a perfect example of the ability of Palestinians and Israelis to overlook their political differences and create mutually beneficial initiatives. The hotel, which has recently re-opened and the next-door casino which it was designed to serve, are one of the few enduring results of the Oslo period in Jericho. Yet, for many, it symbolises the corruption at the heart of the Israeli and Palestinian elites.
The casino is partly owned by the Palestinian Authority and several individuals, including Martin Schlaf, an Austrian businessman and friend of Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister. CAP, the company that owns the casino, was represented by Dov Weisglass, Sharon's special envoy....
Abbas finds himself in a singularly weak position. He has lost Gaza, and Hamas polled around 40% in the West Bank in last year's elections. His government is indirectly supporting Israel in its blockade of Gaza in an attempt to force Hamas to give up the hegemony it has won there.
While Abbas has worked all his life to facilitate negotiations with Israel, now is probably the worst moment for them to begin from a Palestinian perspective. It is highly unlikely that Israel will take pity on the weakness of Abbas in any negotiations that might emerge from today's talks.
Abbas' major short-term aim from the talks with Olmert is to get some kind of concession which he can use as leverage in the reconciliation talks with Hamas that must come sooner or later. Yet it was clear from Olmert's language that the Israeli prime minister will not be offering tangible gifts any time soon.....
Life goes on, but many in the West Bank and Gaza are predicting an eruption. The explosion could either be a planned military attack on Israel, similar to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit last year, or a popular outburst of anger which could be directed at any one. As one member of the Abbas's staff said last week: "This bubble is going to burst. I just hope I am not around when it does.""