Difficult road ahead for Middle East peace

Little hope of success as Bush and Olmert prepare to meet today for the last time before US president leaves office.

Image Credit:EPA
Khalid Mesha'al, head of the Hamas political bureau, speaks at the opening of the two-day Arab and international forum for the Palestinians' right of return in Damascus, Syria.
Gulf News

Dubai Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets with US President George W. Bush today for what is likely to be their last meeting before both leaders leave offices.

No major announcements are expected, but they are likely to discuss Iran's nuclear programme, relations with Syria and the global economic crisis, according to US officials. But while the two men share unpopularity in their tenure, they leave behind them two different legacies.

"Their unpopularity is largely in part due to their unwise decision to pursue the 2006 Lebanon war. While Olmert has bravely been speaking out repudiating much of the political legacy of his career, Bush has not admitted to any mistakes," Nathan Brown, an associate and expert on Palestinian reform at the Washington DC-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Gulf News.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that any promise of peace agreements are false.

"So far we have not reached agreement on a single question - every issue remains up for discussion," Abbas told the PLO Central Council on Sunday.

Obama push

President-elect Obama might bring more credibility to the on-going peace initiatives, but it is very likely that he will be met with insurmountable challenges such as a divided Palestinian government, the rise of ultra-orthodox colonist violence and extremist Palestinian groups.

Despite the challenges, Obama recently telephoned President Abbas to pledge his commitment to pushing forward with the negotiations which many analysts view as a good sign that an Israeli-Palestinian peace process will be a top priority for the new US President.

There is lots of talk and speculation over what will happen if the hawkish Israeli Likud party under Benjamin Netanyahu takes control.

As for Hillary Clinton's role as Secretary of State, Brown is cautiously optimistic. "She will likely be a formidable Secretary of State but while she was Senator of New York she took some cheap shots at the Palestinians," he said.

The new US and Israeli administrations will have to address a series of issues before tackling any peace proposals.