The American sponsored Middle East peace conference has been postponed until January according to an informant at the State Department who spoke on conditions of anonymity. Secretary of State Rice has been telling people in the Middle East the conference would take place in November, but it appears differences between Israel and Palestinian leaders have thrown a road block in the plan. President Abbas, head of Palestinians, have been emphasizing the importance of a concrete agenda while Israeli leaders prefer a document which is vague in detail. Many Arab nations have been critical of the conference’s vagueness. Ironically, on her recent swing through the Middle East, Secretary Rice received encouraging support from most leaders. A snag continues to be Israel’s refusal to deal with “final status” issues and demands on the part of Arab leaders the time has come to address long term solutions.
There is no doubt support for the conference has not been overwhelming on the part of Arab nations because of failure to get serious about settling long term issues. Fatah and Hamas still remain apart which means Palestinians are divided at a time when unity is imperative to move toward final determination of issues. Israel is torn between conflicting feelings of seeking to end violence and a willingness to trust the future. The greater the delay, the more the conference will be caught in the middle of an American political campaign in which candidates in an effort to obtain American Jewish votes will pander to those against peace in the Middle East. By June, a sitting president will have lost all possibility of getting support from the rival groups in the Middle East.