Rice: Israelis must be prepared for “difficult and painful sacrifices” now that they have a negotiating partner in President Abbas

In an address to the United Jewish Communities meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday, Nov. 13, the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Israelis must sacrifice some of their “longest held aspirations” in talks with Palestinian leaders. A strong Palestinian state was more urgent than ever, she insisted, as a bulwark against threats from violent extremists, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and to Iran.
debkafile‘s sources reveal: Rice confirmed what Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni are holding back from the Israeli public: Their acceptance of deep withdrawals from the West Bank in favor of a Palestinian state, the uprooting of 100,000 Israelis living there, and additional broad concessions ahead of the Annapolis peace conference.
The audience applauded Rice when she reassured them of Washington’s commitment to protect longtime ally against threats from Tehran, fight anti-Semitism and confront Hamas and Iran. But the crowd was silent when she called Abbas “a true partner for peace” and said Israel now had “responsible leadership” with which to deal.
The concessions exacted from Israel, debkafile has learned, include the ceding of West Bank natural resources to Palestinian control, including shared sources of water. Talks have already begun for a US-Israeli Palestinian mechanism to supervise water sources, possibly including Jordan.
Olmert has further consented to start negotiations with Syria on Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan. The talks will kick off at the follow-up to the Annapolis conference, which will take place in Moscow. He agreed to attend when he met Putin in the Kremlin Oct. 18.
The Annapolis conference, according to debkafile‘s sources, is not just an event lasting a few hours, as Olmert downplays it, but part of a broad cooperative US-Russian initiative aimed at bringing the Russian president aboard Washington’s push for tough sanctions against Iran. Israel’s willingness to negotiate the Golan’s return was offered by Washington as bait to draw the Syrian president away from his pact with Tehran and stop meddling in Lebanon. The success of this ploy will be tested before the Annapolis conference, on Nov. 21, when Damascus must keep its hands off Lebanon’s presidential election.
At some point, the Israeli prime minister and foreign minister will have some hard explaining to do for relinquishing the fundamental demand for secure and defensible borders, and overriding the country’s majority objections to the sweeping concessions to the Palestinians, which he is laying at the Bush administration’s feet.
Olmert will no doubt try and explain that these concessions were mandatory for the sake of achieving US-Russian cooperation for the imposition of sanctions against Iran. The fact that this cooperation will have relieved Tehran of the military threat hanging over its head for continuing to develop a nuclear weapon will not figure in Olmert’s arguments to the nation.
In her Nashville speech, the US secretary of state presented the “difficult and painful sacrifices” Israel must make to meet the most excessive Palestinian demands as a diktat: Failure of the Israeli-Palestinian talks is not an option. She justified it by determining: “What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East.”

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