The build-up to the "peace conference" is wearing out Abbas's kneecaps
By Khaled Amayreh
"......Indeed, with less than six weeks separating us from the November conference, it seems that virtually no noteworthy progress has been made in the loudly touted talks between Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. As one disgruntled Palestinian official in Ramallah put it, the talks revealed that Abbas and Olmert were talking at cross purposes. "These talks were a total failure. President Abbas wanted a concrete agreement on the core issues, namely ending the occupation, but Olmert was just prevaricating, quibbling and babbling about Hamas, isolating the extremists and Israeli good-will gestures."
Last week, officials in Ramallah warned that the PA might not attend the conference if it became clear that it would be "a talking occasion". However, the warning was largely seen as a desperate tactic aimed at getting the Bush administration to press Israel to address the final status issues, at least in order to enhance Abbas's public standing among Palestinians, especially vis-à-vis Hamas. Interestingly, the warnings from Ramallah, coming from an "authority" whose very survival depends almost completely on Israeli and American good-will, were rebuffed rather sooner than later this week when the American secretary of state made it abundantly clear that she was washing her hands of any responsibility, that it was up to the two sides, not the Bush administration, to see to it that the conference won't turn into a mere talking occasion......
....Israel, it is increasingly obvious, has come to view Abbas -- at least privately very much as -- a puppet leader. This week, and under this very title, Israeli commentator Gideon Levy wrote that Abbas shouldn't go to Washington. "Even his meetings with Ehud Olmert are gradually turning into a disgrace and have become a humiliation for his people. It is impossible to bear the spectacle of the Palestinian leader's jolly visits in Jerusalem, bussing the cheek of the wife of the very prime minister who is meanwhile threatening to blockade a million and a half of his people, condemning them to darkness and hunger."......"