Political Insider: Peace Process Progress? No Way

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Is the Bush administration worried that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s new troubles will stall their effort to make significant progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before January?

Don’t count on it. While most analysts in Washington believe the new corruption investigation means Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are effectively on hold for the foreseeable future, that may not be at odds with administration goals.

“The administration has been saying all the right things, but seems to have been avoiding backing up the rhetoric with action,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.  “A long period of uncertainty in the top levels of Israel’s leadership could give the administration the excuse for inaction that it may be seeking – if it needs an excuse at all.”

Some groups that oppose aggressive new peace efforts in the region say Olmert might accelerate negotiations – and make risky concessions to the Palestinians – as a way of deflecting attention from his woes and distracting the Israeli public.

But in Washington, it’s hard to find analysts who believe the administration wants that to happen.

“(Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice obviously wants to move forward quickly, but she’s getting no backing at all from the White House,” said a longtime pro-Israel leader here.  “And everybody in the region knows it. So you tell me: how do things move forward?”

The administration is also stymied by Hamas’ and its control over Gaza, this activist said.

“They already had an excuse not to push really hard. Olmert’s troubles are just one more reason the administration is just going through the motions.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.