Next week's summit

As most of you probably know by know, Hosni Mubarak has invited Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas to meet in Sharm Al Sheikh next Tuesday. From an Egyptian perspective, the pro-active Middle East peacemaking continues, and it is essential not only for intrinsic reasons -- after all Israel and Palestine are neighbors -- but also for domestic purposes and purposes of standing with the Egyptian regime's main supporter, the United States.

I was rather puzzled to read the following paragraph in the New York Times:

Mr. Sharon could hardly refuse the invitation of Mr. Mubarak, who has publicly praised him and warned the Palestinians that he is the best Israeli peace partner they are likely to get. The Egyptians have also been putting pressure on Palestinian militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to agree to a long-term cease-fire, which the groups' Damascus-based leaders discussed with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo on Tuesday.


Well, actually, Sharon can very well refuse what he bloody likes. Sure, Mubarak has been pandering to him, calling him the Palestinians' "best hope for peace" (the victims of Shabra and Shatila must be rolling in their graves), signing gas and trade deals, releasing spies and has also been busily been trying to get the various Palestinian factions to agree to a common agenda. But that doesn't mean that everything is not still in Sharon's hands, and that the meeting will be largely driven by the question of "security" vs. advancing the peace process -- in other words, that a definitive solution will be postponed yet again. I'm willing to bet that will happen even if, as announced, Mahmoud Abbas declares a complete ceasefire (one that he is powerless to enforce in any case.) I assume that means that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are onboard, but the question is for how long and in exchange for what?
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.