|Israel is lowering expectations
for a three-way Mideast summit next week, in which the United States will
mediate between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. As Robert Berger reports
from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel is concerned about the formation of a
new Palestinian unity government, in which moderates and militants will
Israeli officials say there will be no talks on substantial issues at
next Monday's summit in Jerusalem with Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and moderate Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas. Officials say it will be too difficult to address
concrete issues after Mr. Abbas agreed to a national unity government with
the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas last week.
The announcement underscores Israeli concerns that Hamas has not met
key conditions for lifting international sanctions, namely, renouncing
violence and recognizing Israel. Hamas, which seeks Israel's destruction,
has said that it will never recognize the Jewish state.
Therefore, Israel fears that Mr. Abbas is serving as a "fig leaf" for
Hamas, which has not moderated its views.
Rice has said that Israel
must offer the Palestinians a "political horizon" that will give them hope
for achieving their goal of an independent state. And Israel says that
will be on the agenda.
"If the Palestinian people choose to go with the moderates, and it is
their choice, then there is a political horizon, there is international
support, there is every reason for hope for a better future," said
government spokesman Mark Regev.
Palestinian officials from Mr. Abbas' Fatah faction expressed
disappointment with the Israeli position and urged Israel to give the new
unity government a chance. They said it is high time to begin talks on a
final peace agreement.
Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says the summit must be more than
"I truly believe that there is a good chance for resuming the peace
process. But we should proceed, both sides-mainly the Israelis-in going
for real substantial talks," said Nasser.
But Israel is reluctant to offer substantial concessions while Hamas
plays a senior role in the Palestinian government.