Abbas Claims No Progress-Rhetoic But Inertia

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed his pessimism about any change in the current Isral-Palestinian conflict despite having extensive discussions with President Bush and Secretary of State Rice. “Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved. But, we are still conducting direct work to have a solution.” Abbas belives a major stumbling block to peace is the refusal of the Bush administration to exert pressure on the Israel government to cease building settlements on the West Bank. “We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the road map that talks about the cessation of settlement expansion. This is the biggest blight that stands as a big rock in the path of negotiations.”

Aides to Abbas say he was infuriated with Secretary Rice’s refusal to discuss the 1967 border issue. “We demanded that they talk about the 67 borders. None of them talk about the 67 borders.” There are talks, there are negotiations, but, as Abbas put it, “the situation is still as it was.”

President Bush explained to Abbas that he was “focusing on the bigger picture” which would entail once more expressing a declaration of principle. Bush apparently believes there is need for more declarations of principles, but Abbas believes there is need for some immediate action.

Bush procrastinates, Abbas fumes, and the Israel government continues its nonceasing drive to construct housing in the West Bank settlements.