It's a summit that nobody wants much except the Americans. Palestinians, in particular, gripe that Rice is dragging them to it. They say Rice only wants to show Arab moderateswhom the U.S. needs to help repair the chaos in Iraqthat the Bush Administration is keen to make headway on the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. U.S. officials told Abbas's team that it is unlikely President George W. Bush would attend the summit himself. At the summit, scheduled for next month in an as yet undisclosed location, Rice would represent the U.S. side, and the two other participants would be Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Emerging from a three-hour session with Ms. Rice, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert then met with supporters of his Kadima party and made it clear that he would negotiate with a Palestinian "national unity" government only if it recognized the state of Israel, renounced violence and respected previous accords Palestinians had signed with the Israelis.
It's a sure bet that won't happen. The two rival Palestinian factionsAbbas's Fatah movement and the Islamic militants Hamas, which run the governmentare now shooting at each other, and it is doubtful that they could agree on Israel's terms before the summit.
Abbas evasively replied to Rice that "he would think about" attending the summit. Just a few hours after Rice's Middle East road trip has moved on, Abbas was already under pressure from Hamas and from his own Fatah movement not to go. As one senior Fatah Central Committee member, a veteran of several past tripartite summits, told TIME: "We go and meet the Israeli Prime Ministers and what do we get? Lies, lies, lies. So in the eyes of Palestinians we become partners to these lies."
One of the key Palestinian demands is for Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank. It did not help Rice sell her tattered "Road Map" to the Palestinians that today Israeli newspapers announced more houses were going up in one of the big Jewish settlements inside the Palestinian territories.