debkafile: Olmert’s ministers float improbable fantasies as facade for non-progress in his dialogue with Palestinian leader Abbas

Dep. Prime minister Haim Ramon proposed Monday, Oct. 8, ahead of the prime minister’s address to the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, that Israel reject the Palestinian principle of the “right of return” (of the 1948 refugees) and offer instead the yardsticks of “compassion and mercy.”
The Palestinians would do well to take note of the Olmert government’s “compassion an mercy” policies for Israel’s own poor classes before building up their hopes.
Last week Ramon floated another plan: to hand control of Jerusalem’s Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy places, including Temple Mount, to an international commission representing the UN, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. He proposed transferring the Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians; 90,000 Jerusalem residents should be given Jordanian passports.
Minister for strategic threats Avigdor Lieberman proposes trading Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods for West Bank Jewish settlement blocs.
None of these plans has been endorsed by the government or the Knesset – certainly not by the Palestinians. They are being floated for effect, to generate a false sense of dynamic progress in the Olmert-Abbas dialogue, which has failed to achieve a breakthrough on a single crucial issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict ahead of the Annapolis conference in November. As a result, when US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice arrives next Sunday to hear a progress report, she will find the terrain littered with these fanciful non-starters.
At the Israeli cabinet meeting Sunday, Oct. 7, Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin remarked that there is no point in selling any plans to Abbas and Salam Fayyad, because they are a fading force on the Palestinian scene.
debkafile adds: In any case, no agreement signed in the 14 years since the 1993 Oslo Accords, most brokered by Washington, has ever been honored by the Palestinians and only triggered resumed bloodshed.
PM Olmert, who knows this, tries to still arguments by threatening: “If we fail to engage Abbas now, we’ll end up with Hamas controlling the West Bank.” He hopes people will forget that the extremist group was brought to power in the first place by his decision to let them run in their first general election in Jan. 2006, even in Jerusalem, and defeat Abbas’ Fatah.
Only a vague memory remains of the 2005 Israel-Egyptian accords brokered by Rice for securing the Egyptian-Gaza Strip after Israel’s withdrawal.
All three of the lead players at the coming “peace conference,” Rice, Olmert and Abbas, suffer from a mental block about reality.
Olmert, the most unpopular prime minister in Israel’s history, lacks government support for Ramon’s brainwaves; defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni lead the critics. Former defense minister Shaul Mofaz says they are damaging Israel’s security and international standing.
Abbas’ West Bank rule is confined to parts of Ramallah; not just in Gaza which fell to Hamas in June, but on the West Bank too, neither he nor PM Fayyad ever sets foot in the main towns. They are controlled by a coalition of Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the radical “Fronts,” which are united by their dedication to his overthrow and war on Israel.
Middle East Arab rulers have lost patience with the US Secretary’s efforts on the Palestinian front and are refusing to line up in Annapolis. They want an accounting on Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and on Israel’s air strike in Syria on Sept. 6.
The Ramon fantasy for repartitioning Jerusalem might have had a serious impact in the 1980s or early 1990s. Today, debkafile‘s Palestinian and counter-terror sources stress that Temple Mount and parts of the Muslim Quarter are increasingly controlled by Hamas and the virulent Muslim Hazib al-Tahrir, a violent fundamentalist organization which is persecuted in Muslim lands for threatening their regimes. Aside from its border police patrols which provide security for pilgrims and tourists in the shrines and alleys of the Old City, Israel has allowed control of the shrines. including Temple Mount, to slip out of its hands.
Abbas’ party therefore has little to gain from an Israeli withdrawal from Arab Jerusalem. It would simply set the seal on the city’s further radicalization as did Israel’s pull-out from the Gaza Strip.

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