PA official: Bush administration biased

Says US gov't has adopted Israeli policy, lost credibility; doubts 2008 breakthrough in peace-talks.

In the wake of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's recent talks in Washington with US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, it is "unrealistic" to expect a breakthrough in talks between the Palestinians and Israelis before the end of the year, a senior PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post Saturday. The official, speaking on the eve of Rice's meeting with Abbas, accused the Bush Administration of "bias" toward Israel. "The Americans have adopted the Israeli policy," he said. "When you hear Bush, you think you are listening to [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert." The official said the PA was no longer pinning any hope on the Bush Administration to help achieve an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis. "The Bush Administration has lost it credibility as an honest broker," he charged. "We will now have to wait for the next US Administration." The official confirmed that Abbas emerged from his talks with Bush and Rice "angry and depressed." According to the official, Abbas was shocked to learn that the Bush Administration had no intention to put pressure on Israel with regards to settlement construction in the West Bank. "President Abbas felt as if he was talking to the wall," the official said. "Both Bush and Rice refused to discuss details related to the current peace talks with Israel. We are very disappointed." Sources close to Abbas said that he had not been in good health ever since he returned from Washington. Last week Abbas underwent catheterization procedure in the heart at a Jordanian hospital. Nimer Hammad, political advisor to Abbas, said the US policy in the region has failed "because Washington was only encouraging the parties to negotiate without real intervention." He said Abbas briefed Bush during his visit to Washington on the obstacles threatening the peace process, especially the continued construction in settlements. But, the advisor added, Bush did not want to go into details and asked to postpone the talks until Rice's visit to the region." Hammas told the Palestinian Maan news agency that the PA was opposed to any map that permits settlements to remain in the West Bank. "Israel wants to annex 50%-60% of the West Bank by keeping settlement blocs," he said. "This means we will be offered less than 50% of the land. This is totally unacceptable. If Israel continues to build settlements, there will be nothing left to negotiate about."