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

Share

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.

THE SCHEDULE

TODAY

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

TOMORROW

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

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'