What's Rice expecting form her ME trip?

The U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has just embarked on a trip to the Middle East, said that the aim of her visit to the region at this time is to create a "political horizon" for Israeli and Palestinian peacemaking.

What's Rice expecting form her ME trip?
Her plans, however, have been eclipsed amid uncertainty and disagreement over how to handle the recently announced agreement between Hamas and Fatah over power-sharing, with the aim of ending the fighting that has been going in the region for months.

Many analysts predicted that soon after the announcement of the Hamas-Fatah agreement, Rice would make a sudden visit to the Middle East to discuss the details and future of final settlement.

But what would Rice get out of her summit and meetings with Middle East leaders?

Speaking to reporters before leaving for the Middle East, the U.S. Secretary of State said that her mission would be "obviously more complicated because of the uncertainties surrounding the [Palestinian Authority] national unity government."

However she said, "it would be a mistake not to take advantage" of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' commitment to the so-called Road Map peace process and the Quartet recommendations "to work toward a realization of a political horizon for the Palestinian people so that the Palestinian people know what is at stake for them in the future."

The U.S. official met President Abbas, who's aware of the importance of governing hand-in-hand with Hamas which refuses to recognise Israel, and is viewed by the United States as a terrorist group.

She also met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who refuses to recognise the Palestinians' rights.

Rice admitted that the moment is awkward to discuss peace between the two parties, but argues that it's important to carry on with the summit with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership.

"We could have decided not to meet during this time, but I actually think that when people have questions and want to explore issues that arise out of something like the agreement to form a national unity government that it's better that they be able to do it face to face," Rice told reporters.

Will Rice's meetings prove successful this time in terms of bringing the two parties a step closer to peace? Also has the Mecca summit and agreement paved the way well for such achievement?

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, said that the "subcommittee had hoped to examine those realistic and productive measures that the parties, directly and indirectly involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, might have taken to restore a sense of hope and maybe even make some progress towards peace".

But he said that "in light of the Mecca accord which, if implemented, will create a Hamas-Fatah unity government for the Palestinian Authority, I'm not sure what's left to discuss."

Commenting on Rice's aim of creating a "political horizon" for Israeli and Palestinian peacemaking, Ackerman added that the only way for Rice to do that is to boost the position of Abu Mazen.

"What has Abu Mazen done to strengthen himself? He's capitulated to Hamas. The Mecca accord neither strengthens him nor helps the cause of peace."

The Jerusalem Post cited remarks by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who offered a bleak assessment of the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians as well as Rice's summit.

"It is critical to understand how the recent Mecca summit has undercut this effort" of creating a political horizon, Makovsky, director of the institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process, said.

"It is hard to escape the conclusion that Abbas has legitimized an unrepentant Hamas... it is very possible the distinctions between Abbas and Hamas have blurred," he further stated, adding that "there is less incentive for the international community to bolster Abbas at the expense of Hamas."

"The rationale of Rice's political horizon initiative was being done precisely for this purpose, namely to demonstrate to Palestinian moderates that it is Abbas and not Hamas who can reap major diplomatic gains,"

"Even if Abbas is willing to make a deal, Mecca has proved to many that he will not break from Hamas."

But Dennis Ross, Middle East negotiator under Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, believes that "the political options for peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians have been reduced. And Rice's efforts have to be guided by what is possible, not by what is most desirable," Ross wrote this week in The Washington Post.

"What is logical and possible," he continued, "is intra-Palestinian peace and Palestinian-Israeli calm," in other words, a comprehensive, negotiated cease-fire.

Although the Israeli Premier stated bluntly yesterday that his government and the Bush administration are united in their stance of boycotting the new government if it refused to recognise Israel, Rice said she's awaiting the formation of the new Palestinian government, before making judgments.

"We're going to wait until the government is formed," she said.

"Whether or not we can then support the government that came out of [Mecca], I think we've been very clear that the Quartet principles have to be respected if you're going to have the kind of engagement with the government that we would hope to have. But we're going to hold our judgment until that government is actually" formed.

Although U.S. officials avoided the suggestion that Mecca agreement has tainted Abbas, and might affect his diplomatic ties with Washington, they didn't hide their discontent with both the content and timing of the pact, which analysts say might indeed affect Washington's efforts to boost Abbas' government.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16