Israel Could Be Pressured, Isolated at 'Annapolis Charade'

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel could find itself isolated and pressured to make unwise concessions at the upcoming U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian summit, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. said on Tuesday.

"This conference, if it does take place, has every potential of becoming an event where Israel will be on the defensive from the beginning [until] the end," former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval told foreign journalists in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Israel's "original sin" was agreeing to participate in the "Annapolis charade," Shoval said.

"In a forum where Israel will be in splendid isolation, facing the entire Arab League, European Union, the U.N., Russia ...the chances for Israel to have its positions...recognized are practically nil," he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Egypt on Tuesday, seeking support for the summit, which she said would take place in Annapolis, Maryland, in November or December.

Rice already has met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in an attempt to narrow the differences between the two leaders.

On Tuesday, she said the prospect of holding a meeting had given Israelis and Palestinians "some momentum" in formulating their final statement and she said the two sides would soon be in a position to determine exactly when the meeting would take place.

At a press conference with Rice, Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said it would be better to postpone the conference, if more time is needed to re-launching negotiations.

Israel wants a final statement at the meeting to be vague, mentioning the core issues but not how they will be resolved. The Palestinians want details -- including specifics on how the issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem will be solved and a timetable for accomplishing it.

Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said the Annapolis meeting is important so regional and other players can show their support for the bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Shoval, who heads the foreign relations department of the opposition Likud party, said the key issue for Israel's participation in talks should be whether or not the talks would produce results.

Shoval, who served in the Israeli delegation to U.S.-sponsored peace talks in 1998 at Wye River, noted that Israeli Military Intelligence said recently that the Palestinians wanted to make immediate gains at the conference but would postpone or fail to carry out their commitments, primarily those countering terrorist activities.

Eisin said that Israel and the P.A. had only recently resumed security cooperation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said that no one was going to ignore the security concerns and that the threats to Israel's security were very real.

He admitted that while Abbas had taken "some steps" regarding security, "serious challenges" lay ahead, especially concerning the gap in the "desire of the Palestinian leadership to move forward in peace and to implement things on the ground."