Egypt, Jordan Voice Fears About Partial Israeli-Palestinian Deal

Egypt opposes an Israeli-Palestinian partial agreement because Cairo doesn't think such a deal would end the conflict in the region, and Jordan fears that such an agreement would force it to take in hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

The Egyptian and Jordanian position is encouraging to the Palestinian Authority, which opposes an agreement in principle.

In talks with the PA, Israel has suggested signing a partial agreement in a bid to realize the goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian deal by the end of this year. That goal was set at the Annapolis summit last November.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week, rejected the proposal and insisted that any deal include solutions to all the core issues: borders, Jerusalem and the refugees. But Olmert is still pushing the Israeli proposal.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said this week, after a meeting between Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramovitz, that "Egypt completely rejects" a partial agreement.

Egyptian officials said Aboul Gheit had coordinated his response with Abbas. They said Egypt sees Olmert as attempting to rush the negotiations to chalk up a major accomplishment before he retires or to help the United States. Cairo is concerned that a partial agreement would not contribute to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the officials added.

Egypt also opposes an Israeli proposal to involve other countries in negotiations over the future of Jerusalem, according to a source in Egypt's Foreign Ministry.

"Egypt will not be a partner in such a discussion, whose goal is to delay the final agreement between the Palestinians and Israel and to violate the principle that the parties must agree to all the issues," the source said. "It's doubtful whether any other Muslim country would agree to be a partner in such a discussion, in part because the Palestinians have full authority to determine the status of Jerusalem."

Another Egyptian official said Cairo cannot force today's PA to sign an agreement with Israel.

"In the era of former PA chairman Yasser Arafat, [Egyptian] President Hosni Mubarak could have told him to sign, and he would sign," the source said. "Today, Abbas is willing to sign many things, but he doesn't have the authority among the Palestinian public that Arafat had, especially after the rift with Hamas."

Egyptian government-controlled newspaper Al-Ahram published an op-ed yesterday accusing Israel of hampering negotiations, in part by advocating a partial agreement. The paper accused the United States of failing to sufficiently pressure Israel.

Jordan, meanwhile, is mainly worried about any agreement that implied it is the Palestinian state or that would obligate it to take in more Palestinian refugees, in addition to the many who already live there.

Jordan's King Abdullah is particularly concerned about Abbas' opposition to resettling Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which he stated during a visit to Beirut last month. Abbas has not made a similar statement about refugees moving to Jordan, and only after Amman protested did he say that in general, he opposes putting Palestinian refugees anywhere other than in the Palestinian state.

The king has not sufficed with updates from the PA on the Israeli-Palestinian talks, and has held several meetings in the last few months with representatives of Hamas and other Palestinian groups to explain his opposition to resettling refugees in Jordan.