Palestinian officials who met with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday said they received assurances that the Bush Administration will bring all its weight to bear on Israel to make sure Jerusalem is divided as part of an Israeli-Palestinian final status peace agreement it hopes to oversee at next month's peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland.
A senior Palestinian negotiator who took part in the meeting told WorldNetDaily that Rice promised to pressure Israel to halt all Jewish construction in the eastern half of Jerusalem, and to publicly blame Israel for the lack of peace in the region if the upcoming summit breaks down as a result of Israel's failure to surrender the holy city.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has signaled its willingness to turn over Arab-dominated neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, but the latter is also demanding that Israel uproot large Jewish-dominated neighborhoods there as well.
Earlier in the day, Rice got an earful from Israeli leaders who do not see any realistic chance for peace at the planned Annapolis conference.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Rice that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas remains incapable of exercising security control over large Palestinian cities, and said that Israel could not possibly agree at this time to reduce its military presence in Judea and Samaria, let alone allow full Palestinian sovereignty there.
Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai carried a similar message, explaining to Rice that Abbas holds sway over only a portion of Palestinian society, and that making peace with him would not necessarily mean an end to the conflict.
Ynet quoted Yishai as saying that even his right-wing religious Shas Party is ready to make "real Israeli concessions. But these concessions must be made when we have a real partner which is capable of controlling its people. This is not the situation now with Abbas."
In what was described by The Jerusalem Post as a cordial and warm meeting with Olmert, the American was informed that the current Israeli government views a Palestinian state as a fait accompli, but insisted that Israel would stick to the reciprocal peace steps laid out in the US-authored Road Map peace plan.
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