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Analysis: Mideast Talks: Still Stillborn

Council on Foreign Relations

February 15, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

After months of internal violence verging at times on civil war, news that Saudi mediation had brought Hamas and Fatah close to declaring a unity Palestinian government (BBC) might seem like progress. Yet nothing moves forward in this volatile region without dragging a baggage train of trouble. In this case, the terms of the unity government hammered out between the two factions, one of which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, would fall short of the prerequisites for international recognition set out by the "Quartet"—the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations—attempting to get Israeli-Palestinian talks restarted. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in Israel on Saturday hoping to find a Palestinian government she'll be able to meet with. Last-minute bickering (Al-Bawaba) threatened to prevent the new government's formation.

Even if the deal holds, however, the United States may condemn it. Haaretz, the liberal Israeli paper, quotes diplomats and a Palestinian official saying Rice plans to shun members of the new unity government "unless it satisfied international calls for Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept interim peace accords"—the preconditions laid out by the Quartet. The State Department has not officially announced it would cancel plans for Rice and Mahmoud Abbas to meet. But the department's spokesman noted the most recent statement of the Quartet affirming support for a "Palestinian government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements." That implied Washington is not ready to meet Abbas in a new capacity representing a Palestinian unity government that included Hamas.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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