The United States will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a casual three-way chat aimed at reviving Bush’s failed “road map” to peace. A successful outcome seems unlikely, with Abbas and Olmert both suffering from political weakness and with the conspicuous absence of Hamas.
President Bush took office in 2000 scornful of former President Bill Clinton’s intense engagement in the peace process, including sketching the final borders of a Palestinian state.
The president’s aides suggested the collapse of Clinton’s involvement led to the outbreak of violence known as the “second intifada.”
“The parties haven’t talked about these issues for a long time. It’s been at least six years since they talked about these issues,” Rice said, referring to Clinton’s efforts. “It seems wise to begin this, as what President Abbas has called an informal discussion, to just really sit and talk about the issues.”
Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed the meeting, which officials said is likely to be held next month.
Both Olmert and Abbas are politically weakened, making the prospects for success slim. Olmert’s approval rating is 14 percent and Abbas is struggling against the Hamas-led government.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the rival Hamas movement with day-to-day control of the Palestinian government, said the “meeting is against our Palestinian unity.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (left) with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.