Donald Macintyre: A one-way breakthrough on road to peace


The "London meeting to support the Palestinian Authority" which Tony Blair will host tomorrow, albeit not a full-scale international peace conference, represents a considerable feat of diplomatic orchestration.

The "London meeting to support the Palestinian Authority" which Tony Blair will host tomorrow, albeit not a full-scale international peace conference, represents a considerable feat of diplomatic orchestration.

On one level the purpose is almost mundanely practical. After President George Bush's speech in Brussels last week, an upbeat Mr Blair told his fellow members of the European Council that "we now have the basic vision" of a Palestinian state, adding: "What we now have to do is to implement it."

Tomorrow's conference deals almost entirely with one side of that process. For all its acceptance of the need for Israel as well as the Palestinians to fulfil its commitments under Phase I of the road map, most of the exhaustively pre-cooked 17-page document which will emerge from the conference has to do with Palestinian ones, and the international help Mr Abbas can expect in meeting them.

Even before last Friday's suicide bombing the conference was going to major on reform and training of the Pales- tinian security services, with the unveiling of a "security group" led by US General William Ward, but also with Egyptian and Jordanian involvement.

There will be promises - though probably no hard figures until a donor conference later in the year - on what the developed world will do to ease the dire afflictions of the Palestinian economy. These range from the short-term problems faced by the able and respected Finance Minister Salam Fayed in paying the wages of public servants to the urgent need for private-sector investment - including in Gaza after Israeli disengagement - to regenerate a stricken economy in which 60 per cent unemployment is a conservative estimate.

There will also be discussion of anti-corruption measures. The European Commission will explain how it is going to help the Palestinian Authority develop its political and electoral structures, and so on.

What took the orchestrating, however, was getting here at all. At the outset, both Palestinians and Israelis were fairly unimpressed, with officials on both sides suggesting, sotto voce, that it might have more to do with Mr Blair's domestic agenda post-Iraq than the future of the region. Mr Abbas did not finally make up his mind to come until a week ago.

Some Palestinian officials say - and their British counterparts deny - that Mr Blair had to press him into it. The Israelis wanted the conference to concentrate on the Palestinian economy and not be a "political" attempt to kickstart the peace process; the Palestinians' worry was rather the reverse.

The resulting text, every draft of which the British have shown to Israel despite its agreed absence tomorrow, and the work largely of Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Mr Blair's senior foreign affairs adviser, is seen in London as a triumph of "balance" between these competing views.

Putting their best face on it, the Palestinians take some comfort from an opening section on the crucial importance of the road map, and from language which explicitly recognises that Israeli closures and checkpoints - indeed the occupation, though the word is predictably not used - play a crucial part in hampering the Palestinian economy.

At the same time the Palestinian negotiators were less happy at the stipulation, heavily argued for by Israel in the drafting process, that any dismantling of these had to be consistent with Israeli security needs - not because they want Israel to be insecure but because they believe the withdrawal from the territory it seized in 1967 is the best guarantee of security.

There is a possible subtext to all this, one which British officials, highly sensitised to Israeli concerns, will barely own up to. Which is that if the international community can help the Palestinians fulfil their road map obligations, including the increasingly tough Israeli calls for Mr Abbas to crack down on militants, there will be no excuse for Israel not to freeze the settlement expansion which has continued unabated and fully return, post-Gaza disengagement, to the negotiating table.

Tomorrow's very limited agenda, wearisomely for the Palestinian leadership, focuses largely on what Mr Abbas - rather than Mr Sharon - has to do. But it may at least help to give the international community - and Washington especially - a tangible stake in his success.



Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President, arrives in London and has meetings with Jack Straw and Tony Blair.


Conference entitled "London meeting on supporting the Palestinian Authority" attended by 30 delegations at foreign minister level, including US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Arab ministers, EU ministers and UN secretary general Kofi Annan. Israel not sending a representative.

Mr Abbas will present PA plans in three areas under discussion: rationalising Palestinian security, economic reforms and institution-building. Conference delegates respond in plenary session.

A 17-page final document will be issued with concluding remarks by Mr Blair and Mr Abbas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace

Gabriel Sassoon
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little