MKs tell Washington: Annapolis conference doomed
Senior MKs cast woeful projections for success of upcoming peace summit they say was forced on Israel. MK Steinitz: US is 'playing with fire' by pushing for division of Jerusalem. Meanwhile Defense Minister Barak meets with counterpart at Pentagon to discuss Iranian threat
WASHINGTON – In a rare display of bipartisanship, members of Israel's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee from both sides of the political spectrum declared the upcoming Annapolis peace conference
The unanimous opinion was voiced by four leading MKs currently visiting Washington for a series of high-ranking meetings prior to the conference. On Tuesday the group met with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns and Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Jeffrey.
Following the meeting with Jeffrey, MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) said that the Americans were "creating a situation wherein failure in Annapolis may lead to disaster. It would have been possible for bilateral talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to continue. If after seven years of no negotiations at all, this summit fails – it could truly bring about catastrophe.
Failure, Beilin said, would also spell out the end of Abbas' rule and "give an unbelievable boost to Hamas' strength."
Beilin said that the only wayto save the Annapolis conference was for both sides to achieve something significant. "My message is that we did not ask for the Annapolis conference, but if you wanted it then it is your (America's) responsibility. It is up to you, along with Israel and the Palestinians of course, to prevent Annapolis from becoming a remake of Camp David," he said.
'We can't ignore what happened in Gaza'
Meanwhile MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said he was also concerned about a possible deterioration of the situation after Annapolis. The US is ignoring the reality on the ground, he said, adding that a non-viable agreement would be worse than no agreement at all.
He warned against "signing an agreement with Abbas on Judea and Samaria while ignoring everything that has happened in Gaza over the last two years – we gave up everything and got an Iranian-backed Palestinian army in return."
Steinitz accused the US of "playing with fire when it comes to Jerusalem. It's difficult enough as it is to control the city, there are constant attempts to turn the Temple Mount into ground zero for all religious wars. Israeli control over East Jerusalem is the only thing preventing a bloodbath and religious war that could ignite the entire Muslim world.
"If Annapolis fails it would be bad. If Annapolis succeeds we fear that once against Israel will give up everything and receive nothing in return."
Beilin and Steinitz were joined by MKs Yisrael Hasson (Yisrael Beitenu) and Avigdor Itzhaki (Kadima).
Barak promotes missile defense system
Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to the Pentagon this evening to meet with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Discussion revolved primarily around the Iranian nuclear threat, but the two are scheduled for a second meeting over dinner later this evening.
Barak and Gates are longtime acquaintances who formed strong ties during Gates' tenure as director of the CIA which overlapped with Barak's term as chief of military intelligence.
Barak's office confirmed that the defense minister had spoken with Gates about the necessity of a multilayered missile defense system for Israel. The counterparts were joined by various senior staffers for the first half hour of their meeting and later continued in private for an additional 40 minutes.