The Mideast Peace Deal That Got Away

The Mideast Peace Deal That Got Away

Prospects for a framework agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis were brightening as the spring approached. During the President’s trip in January, we’d both been impressed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s desire to get a deal. After the Annapolis Conference, he’d placed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in charge of the Israeli side of the negotiations, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had tapped Abu Alaa. There was something of an asymmetry since the Palestinian team was experienced, having negotiated the issues for more than fifteen years. Like the back of their hands, the team members knew the ins and outs of the maps, the nuances of the phrases, and the history of the conflict. Tzipi admitted that she didn’t know the issues as well but she came up to speed very quickly. I traveled to the region even more frequently, holding meetings with each side separately and several times jointly. The progress was slow but steady. At one point, to better understand the Palestinian concerns about the Israeli settlement of Ariel, Tzipi even suggested a joint field trip to see it. I was convinced that the parties were trying very hard.

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