Beilin: Bush wants 2nd ME summit in May

Tells 'Post' move would be "idiotic" without knowledge deal can be reached on core issues.

beilin 224.88  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
beilin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
During his visit to the region in May, US President George W. Bush wants to hold a peace summit in Sharm e-Sheikh as a follow-up to November's Annapolis conference, MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) told reporters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Palestinian Authority officials confirmed that Washington was trying to set up a meeting among Bush, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah. Senior PA officials said the meeting would be held on May 17 or 18. Senior officials in Jerusalem declined to comment on the possibility of such a summit, citing the sensitivity of the matter and Israel's relationship with the United States. An official at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv said he saw "no indications whatsoever" that such an event was being planned. Beilin told The Jerusalem Post he was sure moves were under way to hold such a summit, but that the move would be a mistake unless it were known in advance that an agreement could be reached on core issues such as borders. "It's an idiotic idea to hold another hollow summit," he said. Earlier, he told reporters that instead of jump-starting the process, the Annapolis conference had been more of a stumbling block because nothing concrete had emerged. Olmert and Abbas talked before, and they talked afterward, Beilin said, adding that meetings without conclusions only supported those who doubted the ability of the sides to achieve peace. "You do not negotiate over lunch every two weeks," said Beilin, who has been involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for two decades, including the failed Camp David talks in 2000. At the press conference, he handed out a glossy booklet drawn up by the Geneva Initiative, which he helped found in 2003. The initiative outlined what it said was the best way to reach an agreement within a year, if not sooner. The parties needed to hold an intensive series of meetings away from the media, where they could finalize solutions that were already known to both sides, Beilin said. An agreement could and should be reached now on borders, as a first step toward solving the other issues, he said. According to the booklet, the same was true with respect to Jerusalem; first the city's general borders should be determined, and only then should the Old City and the holy sites be dealt with. Beilin said Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem should be left for a final phase, in which there would likely be a tradeoff: Palestinians would make concessions on refugees, and Israeli would have to give in on Jerusalem. He criticized the US for failing to appoint a special envoy to oversee the peace process. Beilin also called on Israel to negotiate with Hamas. "You can not come to an agreement without Hamas," he said. Now is the time to come to an agreement, because it would garner majority support within the Knesset, he said. Gil Hoffman and AP contributed to this report.