Summit Negotiating Teams: A Study of Opposites

The gap that has emerged in the approaches of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to the joint document being prepared for the Annapolis summit is in part also being reflected in the make-up of the negotiating teams. Indeed, it seems that the two groups are almost complete opposites.

While Abbas sent five politicians, each with their own agendas, Israel sent a team of senior civil servants.

The Israeli team is headed by the chief of staff of the Prime Minister's Office, Yoram Turbowicz. It also includes:

* Shalom Turgeman, who has been a diplomatic adviser to the prime minister since March 2003, speaks Arabic and served in Israel's embassy in Amman.

* Aharon Abramovitch, director general of the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's representative at the negotiations. He has served as director general at the Justice Ministry, and led negotiations with the settlers during the disengagement.

* The head of the security-political task force at the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, who represents Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the negotiations. He is considered the most experienced member of the negotiations team, who once headed the research division at Military Intelligence. The Palestinians view him as the hawk in the group - or worse.

A handicap for the Israeli team is their lack of experience in long negotiations with the Palestinians, with all the administrative and structural problems that such a historical vacuum creates. On the other hand, all four are not bound by the formulas of the past and are likely to offer new approaches to the talks.

Moreover, the four have been working as a cohesive group for some time and are known as the "Turbo group."

On the Palestinian side, the team is headed by an old fox, Ahmed Qureia, who had served as prime minister under Yasser Arafat and has been involved in secret negotiations with the Israelis on a number of occasions. In Israel his appointment is viewed as an attempt by the PA to undermine the talks; the Palestinians regard this as proof that Abbas is taking these talks very seriously.

Qureia is close to another experienced negotiator on the team, Yasser Abed Rabbo, while Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator on behalf of the PLO, is not known to have smooth relations with either of them.

Akram Haniyeh, the editor of the Al-Ayam daily, is also one of Qureia's good friends.

The fifth man, Sa'adi al-Krutch, was appointed in part because he is originally from the Gaza Strip, but mostly because Prime Minister Salam Fayad does not want to be part of the talks.

Fayad was insulted when Abbas decided to include Qureia to the Palestinian delegation that recently participated in the UN General Assembly, and only allowed him to meet with the representatives of the donor nations. He knows that while he is well respected in Washington, in Ramallah he is an outsider. He also believes that the summit will fail.