Bush emissary to visit for talks with PM, PA
President George Bush's deputy national security adviser, Steven Hadley, is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 10 days' time.
President George Bush's deputy national security adviser, Steven Hadley, is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 10 days' time. Hadley will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian leadership to discuss the situation following Yasser Arafat's demise, the anticipated developments on the Palestinian side, and promoting negotiations.
A political source in Jerusalem confirmed yesterday that "there are ideas about such a visit."
The source added that if Hadley decided to postpone the trip, Sharon's adviser, Dov Weisglass, would then go to Washington.
Hadley will become Bush's national security adviser in January, in place of Condoleezza Rice. His visit to the region will be the first by a senior official in the new Bush administration, and it attests to the White House's intention to deepen its involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and to handle the matter with a hands-on approach.
In his current post as Rice's deputy, Hadley was the White House's coordinator of contacts with the Prime Minister's Bureau in Jerusalem. Among other things, he conducted the negotiations over the exchange of letters of understanding between Bush and Sharon this past April.
Hadley has been to Israel several times in the past two years. On his upcoming visit, he will be accompanied by Elliott Abrams, head of Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council. Abrams may be up for promotion as Hadley's deputy, ambassador to Israel, or as director of the Middle East desk at the State Department.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrived yesterday in Israel, and praised Jerusalem's decision to help the PA hold elections, as well as its consent to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote and for international observers to come to the territories to monitor the polls.
Straw termed Sharon's disengagement plan "courageous" and expressed support for coordinating the pullout with the Palestinians.
Straw met with Foreign Minsiter Silvan Shalom, who criticized PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for stating on Tuesday that "we will not be quiet until our people's right of return is fulfilled."
According to Shalom, "This is not the way. We had hoped for another leadership. Israel regrets that Abu Mazen's opening remarks touched immediately on the need to preserve the Arafat legacy, which for us is a legacy of terrorism."
Shalom said the new Palestinian leadership "will not demand any less than Arafat had, but I think it will be more willing to compromise later on, if we can reach a permanent agreement."
Straw dismissed Shalom's interpretation, saying that Abbas' words were "declarative," adding: "Each side presents its positions at the start of negotiations. Ireland's constitution also said for decades that Northern Ireland is part of the Republic. Each side has ambitions, and they will have to discuss those en route to the only logical solution, a peaceful solution."
Britain's prime minister Tony Blair, is planning to visit the area in December, before Christmas, to highlight his commitment to promoting an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Shalom told Straw "there are no short cuts" and that it is important to preserve the stages of the road map.
Straw said the British initiative for a London conference was not meant to bypass the order stipulated in the road map: "The map talks about an international convention in the second stage, and we have planned merely a meeting."
Straw also met with the leader of the opposition, MK Shimon Peres, and with Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Peres told Straw that it was important for "Gaza first not to be Gaza last." Olmert underscored that it was imperative to stick to the timetable of the disengagement plan and not alter it as a result of international intervention.
Straw will meet today with Sharon, who asked that yesterday's scheduled meeting be postponed because he had "lost his voice." The British later heard that Sharon had attended the funeral of former chief of staff Rafael Eitan. The Israelis were forced to explain that Sharon was not ill, but could not speak.
In a separate development, the director general of the Foreign Ministry, Ron Prosor, departed yesterday for political talks in Turkey to prepare the first visit to Israel by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
Next week, Israel will host visits by the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and its intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, along with Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos.