Photo: GPO
Photo: GPO
Photo: AP

Rice's 'thank you' visit

Former director-general of Foreign Ministry: Condoleezza Rice visiting to thank government for alleged Air Force op

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming to Israel on Tuesday to "say thank you" for the alleged Israeli air force operation in Syrian territory, Dr Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, told Ynetnews.


Addressing the numerous media reports which claim Israeli jets penetrated Syrian territory, Liel said: "I think what we did, if we did it, is work for Americans. Maybe even as an intelligence operation for the Americans, and therefore I think she (Rice) came to say thank you, more so than to discuss Palestinian affairs," the former top diplomat said.


Northeast Syria, where the jets were said to have flown, according to Damascus, "is not an area that bothered Israel in the past, this is an area that bothers the Americans very much," Liel added. "We did work for them, as you know they pay a lot so that we work for them. Seemingly they are satisfied. This has helped them to complicate the Syrians and push them deeper into the axis of evil," he added.


In recent months, Liel has been heavily involved in diplomatic activity to advance an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty, based on an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Last July, he told Ynetnews that he heard a top aide to Syrian President Basher Assad say that Israel and Syria agreed on "85 percent" of the issues which needed to be resolved before a treaty could be signed between the two countries.


Liel made no efforts in disguising his disappointment with the alleged Israeli operation. "Israel has a clear interest in making peace with Syria," he said, adding that the incident in Syria's skies has "shut the door to peace in the near future."


The rest of Rice's visit would be dedicated to "maintenance," Liel said, adding that America's interest lay in driving a wedge deeper between Hamas, an ally of Iran and a part of the axis of evil and Fatah, seen as "one of the good guys." Rice would seek to ensure that that PA President Mahmoud Abbas not attempt a reconciliation with Hamas, Liel added.


Kadima divided over autumn peace conference 

Meanwhile, an Israeli diplomatic observer told Ynetnews that Rice's upcoming visit has underlined increasing divisions within the ruling Kadima party, which is split into two opposing camps.


One group of Kadima members, led by Vice Premier Haim Ramon, is "pushing for Meretz-style territorial concessions from Israel" to be announced during the November peace conference with the Palestinians, while the opposing camp, led by Kadima members with Likud origins, are expressing serious concern at proposals for Israeli concessions.


The observer added that Rice will not be arriving in Israel "in the best of moods," due to the perceived failure of the State Department's advice to pursue diplomatic ends vis-a-vis the Iranian nuclear program. "(US Vice President Dick) Cheney is demanding a more aggressive stance, Rice's policy has not brought fruit," the observer added.


Israel and the US see eye to eye on Hamas, the analyst said, adding that "Syria is very problematic, as is now clear to us. Syria is supported by Iran and Russia. And I am sure there will be talk about what to do regarding Syria. Some talk will be dedicated to diplomatic answers, but most of the conversation will revolve around security," the source said.


He added that while "the Palestinian track is supposedly the central issue (of Rice's visit), it actually isn't... Her real agenda is much more about Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, and about getting an exchange of positions and coordination (with Israel) over these issues." He added, however, that "the US government is withering, and it will want some kind of constructive event with the Palestinian Authority in November."


Due to the weakness of the Palestinian president, "only the Israeli side can make any changes. Abbas is not asked to do anything, he doesn't have to be strong," the source said, adding that if Rice omits the term 'defensible borders' from forthcoming press statements, a term used to define an American position opposed to an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, her statement would signal a US expectation for "a heavy Israeli withdrawl."


'Hamas won't torpedo diplomacy' 

Meanwhile, speaking to Ynetnews from the West Bank, former PA planning minister Ghassan Khatib said fears that Hamas would attempt to torpedo the diplomatic buildup to the November peace summit, of which Rice's visit is a part of, were unwarranted, due to the widespread apathy among Palestinians to the conference.


Khatib, who currently lectures on cultural studies at Bir Zeit University, said: "Hamas is not going to do much to discredit this process because it does not have much credibility. This process is very weak and does not pose a threat to Hamas, or to its strategy, unless things develop positively. The Palestinian public is not very supportive of these efforts, and as long as this is the case, Hamas won't bother discrediting them."


Khatib stressed that the Palestinian public was cynical of the peace efforts because it did not believe that any changes would result. "If the public is asked what do you expect, what do you want from Rice, the answer will be, to help convince Israelis to reduce pressure on Palestinians, to stop the expansion of settlements, and reduce the check points. The Palestinian public has learned to judge from a practical basis and gives little regard to political processes. The main reason why the public is not interacting with this political process is because it does not have any implications on the ground," Khatib said.


Palestinian officials, on the other hand, "are hoping that Rice will try to convince the Israelis to be more forthcoming on getting substantial levels of discussion on political issues, and in this respect will be interested in a timetable," Khatib said. "The second thing the Palestinians anticipate from Condoleezza Rice is an attempt solve regional implications," Khatib added. Mainly, the Palestinians were worried by a lack of an Arab consensus over the peace conference, and the possibility of a Saudi no-show, he added.


פרסום ראשון: 09.17.07, 20:18
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