US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s announced on Monday that she had canceled her scheduled visit to Israel due to the complex political situation in the country.
The announcement only reaffirmed the feeling that Israel and the Palestinian Authority seem to take one step forward, and two steps back.
Olmert’s last meeting with Abbas took place on 15 April, but Palestinian sources said that the two still maintained contact, even if not as often as Rice requested.
The two were supposed to meet on 29 April, according to Rice’s timetable. The meeting was postponed due to the publication of the Winograd Commission’s report the following day. The prime minister’s office said that another meeting between Olmert and Abbas had not been scheduled.
In the meantime, Palestinian resistance movements are gaining strength, and the Qassam rocket fire continues. The National Security Council is scheduled to convene on Sunday to discuss possible plans of military action in the Gaza Strip.
Diplomatic sources expressed concern that the deterioration of the security situation in Gaza, coupled with the lack of diplomatic dialog between Olmert and Abbas, would lead to an escalation of violence in the region.
Dayton PlanDiplomatic sources in Jerusalem pointed out that Israel had not reached a decision regarding General Keith Dayton’s plan for allowing further ease of restrictions on Palestinian citizens.
Dayton’s plan calls for the opening of a safe passage for Palestinian vehicles between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Palestinians also do not have a clear position on the Dayton plan. A Palestinian source said that Abbas was trying to convince Palestinian factions to accept the plan, but that it was difficult to do while “Israel continues to invade the West Bank daily, and continues to threaten wide-scale operation in the Strip”.
“We don’t have Winograd, but we have our own disagreements. Moreover, the Israeli side hasn’t provided the Palestinian leadership with anything to offer the factions to convince them to return to the ceasefire,” the source said.
“We must find a way to hold the dialog that will prevent further deterioration, despite the political problems in Jerusalem,” a diplomatic source in the Foreign Ministry said.
Other sources in the ministry pointed out that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was keeping up with diplomatic efforts, which would culminate in a meeting with the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers in Cairo this week.
Olmert is also scheduled to meet with Jordan’t King Abdullah in Petra next week.
Ali Waked contributed to this story