Here Comes Olmert Cottontail, Hopping Down The Peacenik Trail!

Here Comes Olmert Cottontail, Hopping Down The Peacenik Trail!

Expect Israeli PM to ride the Peace Band Wagon well into 2009!

December 29, 2007

The Two Articles which follow, from YNet News and the Jerusalem Post, are in line with the recent changes being observed in the Middle East since the Annapolis Peace Conference, and in the CIA NIE Report, which followed it.

Prime Minister Olmert is gambling his political future to remain as the Prime Minister in the 2009 elections by creating some sort of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and/or Syria by election time.

Begin YNet News Article

See you in 2009

YNet News

Everyone expects elections no earlier than 2009; until then, Olmert will try to make peace

Attila Somfalvi

December 28, 2007

The time has come to set our political clocks: The political system, ranging from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Defense Minister’s Office, from the Knesset’s corridors to the Knesset cafeteria – has been talking about a new date for Israel’s next general elections. We are not talking about an exact date, but rather, about the beginning of 2009, sometimes between January and May.

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It may take a little more or a little less, but overall, everyone understands that there is about one more year left to do something around here before we go to the polls.

Officials at Olmert’s office are talking about a total term in office of about three years, more or less, as they prepare for election in the beginning of 2009. In any case, time flies, and the date stipulated by law is already approaching. Nobody at the Prime Minister’s Office has any illusions. Nobody believes the Labor party will be going into the elections from inside the government. Therefore, based on the predictions of Olmert’s people, Labor will be quitting the government near the decision on the 2009 budget, and going into the elections from that position.

Olmert’s associates are also preparing for the Winograd Report, even though they estimate that the commission of inquiry’s final report would not be toppling the government and the prime minister.

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The general tone within Israel’s political establishment is that currently it is not a good idea to rock the boat. Even if the report will be harsh, it will not undermine government stability.

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Therefore, the sights are set on 2009, which is being portrayed as a crucial year in terms of Prime Minister Olmert’s political future.

Surprising polls

Olmert is hoping to reach the elections while boasting an agreement with the Palestinians; an agreement that would present the future to the public.

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Recently, officials at the Prime Minister’s Office looked into old documents, that is, polls undertaken during Ehud Barak’s premiership that examined the attitude of Israelis to a final-status agreement with the Palestinians and Syrians. At that time, during the days of the Camp David Conference, Barak’s people tested the public’s position regarding a peace agreement that would enable Israelis to drive from Tel Aviv to Turkey, via Syria.

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The results were surprising.

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When it comes to a comprehensive peace deal, it turned out that Israelis are willing to give up plenty, and go far.

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“A year and a half is a long time,” says an associate of the prime minister. “ Many things can change.

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This is our time to make a change.”

Ehud Barak also thinks that elections will not be happening soon. He has been drowning in work at the Defense Ministry, and he believes that in the face of the threats facing Israel in almost every direction, government stability is more important than ever. The issues on the agenda overcome any narrow political interest, Barak tells his people.

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The Labor party, throughout history, has been able to cast aside its own narrow interests, he says. Ultimately, we have a state here, and we must take care of it. We are committed to it. What I said before about quitting the government is still valid, yet the threats and dangers obligate me to conduct myself responsibly, Barak says.

Surprisingly, Barak thinks that Ehud Olmert is a good prime minister. He thinks that under Olmert’s leadership, things are moving in the right direction. With the Palestinians, for example, the problem is not on our side. Olmert wants to do it, everyone wants to do it, but the Palestinians are the problem. Despite this, Barak doesn’t believe that Olmert will run again.

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How would he be able to do that? The Labor leader wonders. The accumulated affairs will overcome him and leave him bleeding on the sidelines. His own party will push him out and replace him by someone else, with a cleaner image, Barak believes.

Begin Jerusalem Post Article

Specter sees ‘opportunity’ for resuming Syria-Israel talks

Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST

December 29, 2007

There is “a real opportunity” for Syria and Israel to resume peace talks with help from the United States, an influential US lawmaker said Saturday.

Senator Arlen Specter spoke in Damascus shortly after arriving for a two-day visit with Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a member of the US House Appropriations Committee.

“I think there is a very important moment in the Middle East and there is a real opportunity if the parties are ready to move,” Specter told The Associated Press. “It’s up to the parties. It’s up to Syria and Israel, but the United States, I think, is in the position to be helpful.”

Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, was scheduled to meet Syrian President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process and strained US-Syrian relations.

Specter, a member of the US Senate Appropriations Committee, declined to confirm reports that he would convey a message to Assad from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on resuming peace talks between the two countries.

“I think that is something I should talk to President Assad about before I talk to the media,” he said.

Specter, who met Olmert Wednesday, told reporters in Jerusalem that he would encourage Assad to launch peace talks with Israel.

He said he is convinced both countries want to restart a dialogue.

“Prime Minister Olmert told us that he’s interested, that he’s looking for a signal from Syria,” he said.

In 2000, formal US-sponsored Israel-Syria talks neared agreement but broke down over final border and peace arrangements.

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Specter said Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad had told him on the sidelines of last month’s Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, that Syria “is interested in the negotiations.”

Syria attended the US-brokered Mideast conference after receiving assurances that the issue of the Golan Heights would be on the agenda.

Relations between Syria and the US appeared to warm briefly following Syria’s attendance at the Annapolis conference, which was widely seen as an attempt to gain favor with Washington.

But both sides have since lashed out at one another, each accusing the other of meddling in Lebanon, where the Western-backed government is locked in a political standoff with the pro-Syrian opposition.

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The US disapproves of Syrian meddling in Lebanon, Damascus’ support for anti-Israel militant groups and its alliance with Iran.

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Last week, US President George W.

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Bush rejected dialogue with the Syrian leader, saying his “patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago.”

Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, said he looked forward to speaking with Assad about promoting peace and stability in Syria’s neighbor, saying he wants to see “free and fair elections in Lebanon … full sovereignty for Lebanon.”

The election of a new Lebanese president has been held up by continued political wrangling between the Syrian-backed opposition and the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority bloc.

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The presidency was left vacant after pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud’s term ended on Nov.

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23, with no successor being elected.

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