Accessibility links

Breaking News

Israel Lowers Expectations Before Rice Visit

Disagreements have emerged between Israel and the Palestinians before a visit by the American Secretary of State to the region later this week. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the point of contention are the parameters of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is lowering expectations for a planned international peace conference in the United States this November. In a closed-door meeting with members of his Kadima party, Mr. Olmert said he wants a joint declaration of intent on the creation of a Palestinian state.

But that falls far short of the Palestinian demand for an agreement in principle, including a timetable for implementation. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads a U.S.-backed government in the West Bank, wants to tackle the core issues of the conflict, such as the status of Jerusalem, refugees, and final borders.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser.

"I believe that there is a need, really, for final status talks with the Palestinians hoping that this atmosphere will improve the bilateral relations between Israel and the Palestinians," said Abu Nasser.

But Israel is reluctant to promise major territorial concessions to Mr. Abbas, just three months after his forces were routed by the Islamic militant group Hamas during a civil war in the Gaza Strip.

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, says Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, failed to deliver on the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan. So he says, Israel cannot hand him a Palestinian state.

"Abu Mazen, unfortunately, ever since he has been in power has really failed on all of his commitments," said Shoval. "Under the Roadmap, he was supposed to destroy the terrorist infrastructure, to work against Hamas. He did not do it, and we see the results in Gaza."

Palestinian officials are so disappointed with the Israeli position that they threatened not to attend the international peace conference.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will hold separate talks with Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas later this week, to try to bridge the gaps.