"Blair's true colours" The real reason Blair was seconded to the Quartet -- liquidating Palestinian resistance to occupation -- appears ever more clear, writes Saleh Al-Naami: Rabbi Benny Elon, president of the right-wing Israeli National Union Party, was unable to conceal his relief last Thursday when a Hebrew radio news programme presenter asked him about his evaluation of the recent plan devised by Quartet envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Finally, even Blair agrees with us on two primary points," Benny Elon said. "These are uprooting the Palestinian terrorist organisations and solving the problem of the refugees without holding Israel any responsibility for it." Revealed the previous day, Blair's plan for the reform of Palestinian Authority (PA) institutions left resounding reverberations in the Palestinian arena. Factions, elites and the Palestinian public alike were shocked when it became clear that "reform" of PA institutions, as Blair sees it, means ensuring conditions that allow for a tightening grip on Palestinian resistance movements, particularly in the West Bank. The plan draws no tie between this and decreasing attacks on Palestinians by Israel's occupation army and settlers.
"Undeclared truce" Lebanon's divided leaders were unusually sociable towards each other this week, but the presidential election suffered yet another delay, Lucy Fielder reports from Beirut: Lebanon postponed its long-awaited presidential vote again this week to allow more time for bitterly divided MPs to find consensus on a candidate and avert political meltdown. If MPs do not succeed in electing a president before Syrian- backed Emile Lahoud steps down 25 November, many fear Lebanon will be saddled with two rival governments, raising the spectre of another civil war.
Daoud Kuttab, "A minimum strategic goal": In all previous attempts at negotiations with Israel, Palestinians have never made any real breakthrough. Progress has only been made on procedural or superficial issues, even if expectations were always raised unreasonably high, which in turn created exaggerated hopes for the peace process. This has been the case since the Madrid peace conference and was true of the Oslo process. Throughout, the Palestinian position was in permanent retreat and concessions were offered Israel at no cost.
Yossi Alpher, "Makin matters worse": About ten days ago, I made the rounds of the think tanks in Washington, DC, discussing current American/Middle East issues with colleagues. From scholars of the far right to the left, no one believed the Annapolis conference would succeed. The level of cynicism regarding the Bush administration's motives and capabilities in the Middle East was depressing. Between the lines was a consistent assessment that, in pressing the case for the conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was out of her depth.
Ramzy Baroud, "Peace Conference, new case for war": The Middle East peace conference proposed by the Bush administration is clearly a smokescreen, aimed at concealing the true intentions of US foreign policy in the region. In the predictable process of rewarding ‘moderate’ allies and chastising ‘extremist’ foes, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will most likely receive the accolades befitting a peacemaker, while his protagonists in Hamas are reprimanded, demonized and further isolated. But the ultimate goal of this charade is not even so much to isolate Hamas, but rather to set in motion events that will further isolate Iran and Syria.
Ali Abunimah, "The show goes on ... and on": The "Middle East Peace Process" is like one of those big budget Broadway extravaganzas; they go on for years, but with each revival the cast changes. What may seem like a tired production to some nevertheless manages to remain fresh to the gullible throngs willing to hand over the price of admission.
Johara Baker, "When 'Good men' do nothing": The events that transpired at the Ketziot Detention Center in the Negev Desert on October 22 sound off more than one alarm bell. The most obvious and most devastating is the fact that a 23-year-old Palestinian political prisoner is now dead and 250 others injured as a result of the violent encounter. But the tragic death of Mohammed Al Ashqar is not the only disturbing factor in this recent event. Once again, Israel, which considers itself above the law [international and otherwise] when dealing with the Palestinians, has carried out one more atrocity against this people with impunity.
Janiki cingoli, "MiddleEast - The Uncertain Summit": The prospects of the Middle Eastern summit convened by Bush for November (the original date has already been postponed for the end of the moth and the term "International Conference" seemed too much of a commitment for Israel), are still but a vague vision on the horizon. And not only because the invitations and the agenda have been suspended so far, awaiting progress in the bilateral contacts between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but also because neither the aims nor the framework are clear.
Suher Abu Oksa Daud, "Internal Divisions make it a bad time for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-Talks": While Israeli and Palestinian teams seek to iron out conditions for renewed peace talks in Annapolis this fall, deep divisions among the Palestinian and Israeli political leaderships doom any Middle East peace summit to failure.
Julien Barnes-Dacey: "In raids wake, Syria turns defense"
Jonathan Freedland, "At last, consensus in the MiddleEast: All agree these talks are bound to fail": It takes a special kind of genius to unite the warring parties of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but George Bush may just have pulled it off. His proposal for what the US administration calls a "meeting", rather than a peace conference, in Annapolis, Maryland, before the end of the year has elicited a unanimity unheard of in the Middle East. From the hardmen of Hamas to the hawks of Likud, there is a rare consensus: Annapolis is doomed to failure.
Tamar Hermann, "No high hopes for Annapolis": Some two-thirds of the Jewish public think that from Israel's standpoint it is impossible to go on indefinitely with the current state of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. A similar amount of Jewish citizens think that among the most urgent issues on Israel's agenda is the government's attempt to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Yet a large majority of this public does not believe that the Annapolis conference will significantly advance the chances of reaching a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace, or even achieve a basic clarification of the differences between the two sides. Given these low expectations, it is no surprise that only a small minority reports steadily following the preparations for the conference.