Sat, Nov 24, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Israel, Palestinians have little hope for US summit

POLITICAL HORIZON Olmert warns maintaining the status quo would have `deadly results' for Israel ahead of a peace meeting planned in Annapolis next week

AP AND AFP , JERUSALEM

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrive for a press conference in Egypt's winter resort of Sharm el Sheik on Tuesday. The meeting is ahead of the Annapolis peace conference with the Palestinians.

PHOTO: EPA

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned in comments published yesterday that maintaining the status quo with the Palestinians would have "deadly" results for Israel.

"I have concluded that we cannot maintain the status quo between us and the Palestinians," Olmert was quoted as saying in the Haaretz newspaper days ahead of a key US peace meeting.

"We have spent too much time dealing with the status quo but it will lead to results that are much worse than those of a failed conference. It will result in Hamas taking over Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank], to a weakening or even the disappearance of the moderate Palestinians," he said. "Unless a political horizon can be found, the results will be deadly."

US President George W. Bush is hosting a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, on Tuesday hoping to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a virtual seven-year freeze.

Israelis support the conference, but don't believe it will help end the conflict, a poll showed yesterday.

Almost 70 percent of Israelis support holding the conference, but roughly the same number -- 71 percent -- believe it won't help move along the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to the poll conducted by the Dahaf Research Institute and published yesterday in the daily Yediot Ahronot.

Though Israelis tend to support negotiating with the Palestinians, they remain skeptical about the chances for peace and back relatively hardline negotiating positions, the poll showed.

Asked if Israel should agree to dismantle most of its West Bank settlements -- one of the key Palestinian demands -- 55 percent said no. Two-thirds said Israel should not compromise on control of Jerusalem, which is another central demand from the Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as capital of a future state.

A poll taken among Palestinians and released this week showed similar results -- support for the conference but little expectation it will produce results. Just over 70 percent of Palestinians want Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to attend the conference, the poll showed, but 57 percent said they don't believe it will lead to progress in peacemaking.

Meanwhile, Israel plans to reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip beginning on Dec. 2, according to a document submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court, its latest move against the Hamas rulers of Gaza.

Human rights groups petitioned the high court to stop the cutbacks. On Thursday, the state responded with a one-page document stating that Israel "will implement a certain reduction of electricity supply to the Gaza Strip beginning Dec. 2, 2007."

The rights groups have denounced Israel's policy of cutting back utilities to Gaza, calling it collective punishment. The electricity cutback would take effect just days after the conference in Annapolis.

Israel has mostly closed off Gaza since the militant Islamic Hamas overran the territory in June. Several weeks ago, Israel began cutting back on fuel supplies, but planned electricity reductions were delayed by an order from Israel's attorney general, who expressed concerns about humanitarian harm.

Two groups that press for Israel to respect Palestinian human rights, Gisha and Adala, issued a statement on Thursday claiming the proposed electricity cuts would "cause certain and serious harm to the health and well-being of Gaza residents."

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