Analysis / Four quick points on Israel-Palestinian joint statement
Starting tomorrow, a new political reality will make life more difficult both for Olmert and for Abbas.
Timing: Promising to conclude the peace negotiations within a year is the headline of this document. It is a challenge that should not be taken lightly.
Both sides remember that deadlines are not sacred in the Middle East, and were rarely met in similar occasions. Nevertheless, they will try to meet this goal, paying Bush for his vision (the Palestinians) and support (Israelis).
The timing is important for Israel specifically for another reason: This will be the year in which Bush will make his most important decision concerning Israel - whether to prevent Iran, by all means necessary, from getting a nuclear bomb.
Mechanism: We don't know exactly how the American judge will evaluate the way both sides fulfill their commitments as specified in the road map. This technical arrangement is the most important practical outcome of the document. If the Americans are hasty, motivated by the desire to see the process come to completion while Bush is still in office, Israel might regret this deal.
Core issues: They were not specified, but the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees and borders are back on the table and with them, the ability of the political opposition to the peace process to raise hell.
Remember: Some Israeli parties threatened to leave the coalition if Jerusalem is mentioned in the document. It was not - that's an achievement for Olmert, but that will be short-lived. Starting tomorrow, a new political reality will make life more difficult both for Olmert and for Abbas. Whether they can maintain their coalitions through a year of "core issue" negotiations is yet to be seen.