Peace process appears in trouble ahead of Bush visit

Tuesday, May 06, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

US President George W. Bush arrives in the region next week to ram forward his agenda of overseeing a final status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but what he may find is that his mission is doomed to failure.

Bush Administration officials led US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continue to express optimism that a peace deal can be concluded in the coming months, but Palestinian officials and the local Israeli political scene say otherwise.

Rice met with Palestinian and Israeli leaders this week in an effort to get some kind of working document regarding talks over the borders of a future Palestinian state signed before Bush arrived. But Palestinian officials cited by The Jerusalem Post called the Israeli maps presented at the talks "provocative" and "unacceptable" because they left large Jewish town in Judea and Samaria, as well as most of eastern Jerusalem under Israeli rule.

The Palestinians said the Bush Administration appeared to be taking Israel's side in the border dispute in order to fast-track an agreement, but insisted that all Washington was accomplishing was to make further talks irrelevant.

One official told the Post that no Palestinian leader, no matter how "pragmatic" the West tries to paint him, will ever accept anything less than a full and complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.

Meanwhile, other Palestinian Authority sources interviewed by Israel's Ynet news portal said that even if the current Israeli government began to accept their demands, further talks may still be irrelevant because of the domestic trouble Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert now finds himself in.

Reports suggest the current corruption case, the sixth Olmert has been embroiled in since becoming prime minister, is likely to lead to early elections.

In light of that news, a senior Palestinian source said his regime is "concerned that everything that happens now between Israel and us will be useless and a waste of time."

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who polls show winning an easy victory if elections are held soon, has stated he will not honor any agreements made between Olmert and the Palestinian Authority since the prime minister does not enjoy public support for the concessions he is willing to make.

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