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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

September 30 , 2007 Olmert- What Direction?

It was a relatively quite few days in Israel. The Sukkot holiday was greeted with a series of Qassam missiles fired from Gaza. As a result, in Sderot the Sukkot were empty on the first night of the holiday. The IDF responded with an attack in the Northern part of the Gaza strip. The Air Force, together with help from the security services attacked a car carrying members of the same group that kidnapped Gilad Shalit. The attack killed all five passengers in the car; people who Israel stated were preparing a major terrorist attack. The immediate response of Hamas was to threaten massive reprisals. Today, they once again offered a ceasefire.

This week Prime Minister Olmert is meeting with Palestinian President Abas in OlmertÕs Sukkah in Jerusalem. Momentum has been developing as the date of the planned summit in Annapolis Maryland approaches. Where that momentum will lead is very unclear. Which direction Olmert will proceed is very unclear. On one hand, Olmert, a political survivor, whose greatest expertise seems to be maintaining himself in office, has told his right wing coalition partners that nothing is going to happenÉ "ItÕs only a photo opportunity" ..."do not worry". On the other hand, expectations are very high. Olmert was elected on a peace platform. It may be very difficult to recreate the opportunities that might exist at this moment.

On the third hand, it is unclear what are Palestinians might be able and willing to agree to. Shlomo Ben Ami, the former foreign minister under Ehud Barak, and participant in Camp David and the Taba negotiations, wondered how the Palestinians would agree to what is effectively the Clinton proposal, when they previously rejected the proposal. From Ben-AmiÕs perspective, ClintonÕs Camp David proposals and those made immediately after were the very extreme limit of what any Israeli government could offer. As such, what would allow Abbas to accept now what he previously opposed?

Finally, there are two last factors- first, a prime minister that by next week will probably be under four criminal probes- not a small detraction- negotiating in the face of a second small factor... a Hamas-controlled Gaza. Is this a situation that can really lead to any real agreement?