Sunday’s meeting between US Secretary of State Rice and Palestinian Abbas was covered in a surprisingly upbeat vein by the NY Times:
Ms. Rice made clear that she was willing to begin work on a peace deal with him even if the United States boycotted a unity government. That might allow Mr. Abbas, as the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to hold talks with Israel even if a new Palestinian unity government did not recognize Israel or renounce violence, two conditions that Israel and the United States have both demanded.
Mr. Abbas’s aides were buoyant after the meeting. “We’re encouraged,” one Palestinian official said.
But the Mecca unity government agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which does not explicitly renounce violence and endorse the two-state solution, casts a pall on ongoing efforts toward peace. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert pledged at today’s summit with Abbas and Rice to maintain contact with Abbas even while continuing to boycott the Hamas-led Palestinian government; there is some but scant hope in this. The only way forward at this moment is for Israel and the US to negotiate with Abbas while largely ignoring Hamas, but sadly, real progress seems unlikely under these circumstances. I would, nevertheless, hope against hope for this course of working with Abbas and ignoring Hamas.
I often find Ami Isseroff overly harsh, but his analysis, “Palestinian unity: Ominous signs,” at the Mideast Peace Web site seems to be basically on target.