This trip to Israel and today to Palestine has been extremely eye-opening. Condoleezza Rice will be here on Monday — and there is antipathy to her trip at the highest levels of government.
I’ve been told that she comes with no plan, no ideas, no pressure to move in any direction whatsoever. According to a source very close to Prime Minister Ehud Ohlmert, she doesn’t even ask questions about the basic positions on each side so as to understand the “gaps” and then to offer ideas — or even pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians — to close the gaps. Those engaged credibly in the peace process here want American engagement — and want the U.S. to play a role in defining “best options” among many competing visions of how this is going to work out.
I’ll have more to say later regarding some surprising perspectives I’ve encountered about Hamas. Yesterday, a Haaretz poll showed that 64% of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas. This is tough to work out — since Israel and the U.S. have told Abbas that even he can’t bring Hamas into a unity government if he wants a peace deal with Israel (not that Abbas is eager to talk to Hamas, which he isn’t).
More soon — Off to Ramallah.
— Steve Clemons