Caellum Moffat, "Rice’s Last-Ditch Pitch for Peace?": On July 16, US President George Bush announced that the US would host a Middle East Peace Conference in the fall. The fall is upon us with many unresolved issues still on the agenda and despite concerted efforts from his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, it just might be a statement President Bush will wish he could retract. The diminishing importance of this “summit” has cluttered the press to a nauseating degree since its inevitability was confirmed. Rice has attempted to assure skeptics in her seventh trip to the region in a year that the “summit” will be “serious and substantive” with the US having “better things to do than invite people to Annapolis for a photo op”. However, in reality, reaching a viable agreement within the timeframe available, from which all parties can adhere to, is proving to be a monolithic task.
Avi Issacharov, "Bitter Olive Harvest / Justice Falls Short in the West Bank": Abed Al-Fatah Al-Hindi, a resident of the Nablus-area village of Tal, reaches the main highway between the Hawara and Git junctions, near the Gilad Farm. An International Red Cross crew stands waiting for him. He is bleeding from a large scalp wound, and his left eye is swollen. A paramedic bandages his head, and a volunteer from Rabbis for Human Rights cleans his face. "Every year there's a mess," the villager tells Haaretz. "It's just the first day of the olive harvest, and six settlers attacked me. There wasn't much we could do."
Michael Abramowitch, "National Security Adviser to Travel to Middle East": National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley will head to the Middle East next week, the latest in a procession of senior U.S. officials trying to keep nascent Israeli-Palestinian talks on track in advance of a possible peace conference later this fall. The trip was disclosed by officials traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was in the British capital for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II after spending four days shuttling between Israel, Egypt and the West Bank.
Joshua Mitnick, "The Roadblocks to Another Mideast Summit": Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent four days in the Middle East this week to drum up support for an international summit that the US hopes will push the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. While there were positive signs from her shuttle diplomacy throughout the visit – Israeli and Palestinian officials described the conference, expected for late November or early December, as an important opportunity, and Egypt and Jordan lent some support to the idea – obstacles to getting all sides to the table remain, as has long been the case with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
George S. Hismeh, "The Missing Link": The continued give-and-take over the predawn Israeli air strike at an unmanned Syrian site, reportedly a nascent nuclear facility close to the Turkish border, remains a mystery several weeks after it happened. Even the United Nations watchdog organisation handling nuclear issues, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has pleaded ignorance on the subject. “The IAEA has no information about any undeclared nuclear facility in Syria and no information about recent reports [to this effect],” said the agency in a statement last Monday. It promised to investigate “any relevant information coming our way”. It said it would ask the Syrians about these reports, which were mainly published in the American and, belatedly, due the military censors, in the Israeli press.
David Kimche, "Why failure is not an option at Annapolis": After the failure of the Annapolis conference two years ago, the two-state solution has finally been buried. The Palestinian Authority has disbanded itself, proclaiming that the official policy of the Palestinians will henceforth be a one-state solution, a democratic state with the right to vote for all its citizens over the age of 18. "The battle of the womb," they call it. "We will win through the womb. There will be a majority of Palestinians in this state." The responsibility for caring for the Palestinian population has been thrust back into Israeli hands. With no PA to care for education, health and all the other daily needs of the Palestinians, the government in Jerusalem has been forced to take over, creating a heavy economic burden. Hamas has become the dominant factor in Judea and Samaria. It has ceased all violent actions against Israel, proclaiming that "the womb" is a more powerful weapon than Kassam rockets or suicide bombers.
Akiva Eldar, "While Olmert was talking": Veteran activists of the left who have met Ehud Olmert recently report that the prime minister is determined to pull out from the territories and bring the conflict to an end. They say Olmert recognizes that a failure of the Israeli-Palestinian-American summit in Annapolis means a victory for the extremists of the settlements, Hamas and Iran. They say that were it only up to him, the prime minister would make a deal with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. They claim that were it not for his problematic party and coalition colleagues, he would sign a deal similar to the Clinton proposals and the Geneva Initiative. Nothing less. The threats to tear the coalition apart by Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu and Eli Yishai of Shas have transformed the prime minister into the darling of the peace camp and a claimant in the media to the title of etrog - a fruit carefully wrapped in cotton wool for protection.
Gideon Levy, "Administrative Orphans": Here is one way to maintain a sense of family unity: Once a month, the Hashlamoun children visit their parents in jail. Three kids go to see their mother in Hasharon Prison and the other three see their father in Ketziot Prison. Sometimes even this arrangement doesn't work out. Some of the kids haven't seen their father in three months and others haven't seen their mother for a month and a half.
Ramzy Baroud, "Controlling the Debate on Palestine, Israel": The last time I spoke publicly in the United States before my current tour was nearly four years ago. During this time I had travelled the world, passing my message to people in nearly 20 countries. Wherever I went, my calls for justice for the Palestinian people and for global alternatives to racism and war were well-received, but my latest talks in the US have made me realise that the witch hunt on intellectuals that escalated rapidly since September 11, 2001, is nowhere near over.
Azmi Bishara, "Headlong to more of the same": In The Washington Post of 10 October, Harold Meyerson observes that if the erosion of individual rights in the US as a result of Bush's war on terror wasn't enough, there is a development that is "even more corrosive to American democracy: the erosion of majority rule". Apparently he's right. A Pew Research Centre poll in September indicated that 54 per cent of Americans supported bringing US forces home immediately, 13 per cent supported a timetable for withdrawal and only 25 per cent favoured keeping troops there and not setting a timetable. Decision-makers side with the 25 per cent. They want US forces to stay in Iraq for an indefinite period, as they have in South Korea (50 years until now), in the opinion of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, among others. Presidential candidates, on the other hand, tend to be vague on withdrawal even though if the Democrats are elected it will be on the strength of American voters' opposition to the war in Iraq now that it has proven such a disaster.