Abbas will find Obama puts Syrian peace track ahead of the Palestinians

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas will find US president Barack Obama hard to pin down when they meet at the White House Thursday, May 28. Abbas will produce a thick sheaf of pre-conditions for talks with Israel, primarily heavy US pressure to force the Netanyahu government to stop all construction activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem and remove 200 West Bank roadblocks. But for now, debkafile‘s Washington sources report, the administration is more interested in advancing the Syrian than the Palestinian peace track.
According to our Palestinian sources, Abbas badly needs a demonstration of Obama’s sympathy to quell the near-rebellion in the ranks of his own Fatah against the government he installed this week in Ramallah under prime minister Salam Fayyad.
To prepare for his talks with the Palestinian leader, the US president was handed two working papers:
One was to have been drawn up at a meeting in London this week between US officials and Netanyahu’s top aides, cabinet minister Dan Meridor, national security adviser Uzi Arad and personal adviser Yitzhak Molcho.
The Israel team was supposed to present a list of concessions with regard to the illegal outposts to be evacuated and roadblocks to be removed on the West Bank.
This list could be stretched if the going was really tough.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton stated Wednesday that Obama had informed the Israeli prime minister he is against any type of settlement construction, whether new, expansions to accommodate natural growth or any other purpose.
Netanyahu commented this week that Israel and the US have differences on this issue as between friends.
The second paper, prepared by presidential Middle East envoy George Mitchell, gave Israeli-Palestinian peace talks no chance of a breakthrough given the internal strife in the Palestinian camp.
This view was endorsed by his two deputies, David Hale and Mara Rudman, and Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton who is in charge of training a Palestinian security force.
Mitchell believes that focusing on the Palestinian issue at present would be a waste of time and therefore advised the president to give precedence to the Syrian track. He and his aides are planning an early visit to Damascus to clarify the prospects of resumed peace talks.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources add that Tuesday, May 26, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in the Syrian capital to offer Ankara’s services as Damascus’ representative in dealings with Washington. President Bashar Assad sent the Turkish visitor away with a polite refusal. “We have direct relations with the Americans and do not require a third party,” he said.

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