debkafile Reports: The Israeli gestures “agreed” at the first Olmert-Abbas talks Saturday night in Jerusalem were conferred weeks ago
The same package of gestures, concessions and benefits was doled out in the three weeks leading up to the first heart-to-heart Saturday night, Dec. 23, between prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the prime minister’s private home in Jerusalem.
debkafile reports it consisted of automatic weapons and ammunition (as disclosed by debkafile), a portion of the frozen Palestinian assets and permission to move the PLO’s Badr Brigade from its Jordanian base to the Gaza Strip.
The last concession is stalled by the Palestinian insistence on the incoming troops bringing their families and settling permanently, which looks to Israel suspiciously like a back-door migration of Palestinian refugees, rather than a military boost for the Palestinian Authority. In any case, according to debkafile‘s military sources, the Badr troops have not had any military training in years.
The Americans and Europeans knew about the concessions; not so the Israeli public. The disclosure would have added to Olmert’s deepening unpopularity at a time when Qassam missiles continue to ravage towns and villages in the south, there is now word on the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit,and the Hamas-ruled Palestinian government has forged an alliance for war with Tehran.
Therefore, the Israeli prime minister needed the meeting with Abbas to show he was capable of some diplomatic momentum.
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice leaned hard on both leaders to get together to demonstrate successful US-sponsored diplomacy in at least one corner of the Middle East. She turned to Jerusalem in Ramallah in a region where everywhere else Washington’s fortunes are in reverse. The White House must cast about for a new strategy to save Iraq, Lebanon’s prime minister turns to Moscow for help against Hizballah, the UN Security Council is helpless to halt Iran’s nuclear program and Syria carries on defying the UN and the West.
Therefore, both the US and Israel pushed the meeting forward, even though the Palestinian leader, because of his chronic weakness and the violent feud between his Fatah and Hamas, can offer nothing. As to what he received, $100m of Palestinian assets frozen since Hamas took power in March has already been released; and the joint Israeli-Palestinian committee the release of jailed Palestinians in return for Gilead Shalit will stand idle until Hamas’ boss, Khaled Meshaal in Damascus gets the go-ahead from his Syrian and Iranian masters.