Monday, March 03, 2008

U.S. Diplomacy: Crucial Phase for Secretary Rice

U.S. Diplomacy discusses the Middle East Peace Process today in light of the recent violence in Gaza.

Crucial Phase for Secretary Rice

Secretary Condoleezza Rice travels to Israel this week to help restart peace talks. Rocket attacks followed by Israeli raids escalated towards the end of last week, erupting into a Gaza incursion on Saturday. Abu Mazen suspended negotiations with Israel, due to the escalation in violence.

We have cited on this blog before the dual track Israel has pursued: bolster support of Abu Mazen through negotiations, while isolating and increasing pressure on Hamas. Last week’s events show that these tracks are interconnected, placing an ominous feeling over the peace-process.

If the Annapolis Conference is looking more like just a photo opportunity, it is because the United States has not played an active role in negotiations. Now that negotiations appear to be falling apart, Secretary Rice has no choice but to get involved.

What’s most disconcerting is that if Secretary Rice fails to resurrect peace talks, Israel will more than likely go ahead with a large invasion of Gaza. McClatchy journalist Dion Nissenbaum recently pointed out that a tipping point is afoot. A large scale invasion into Gaza would spell disaster for peace negotiations, leaving Fatah and Abu Mazen with few options. One such option would be to resume armed struggle against Israel, and perhaps a third intifada. Zvi Bar’el writing in Haaretz notes, "the Gazan civilian population, hundreds of thousands of whose representative grabbed hold of the lifeline that was momentarily available to them when Hamas breached the wall closing them in, is the dynamite on which the first and second intifadas were built."

Now’s the time for Secretary Rice to step up to the challenge and bring US influence to bear on this dire circumstance.

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