Obama makes plans for Middle East peace conference this yearDEBKAfile Exclusive Report
August 4, 2009, 9:35 PM (GMT+02:00)
DEBKAfile's political sources report that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak's prediction Tuesday, Aug. 4, that the US is preparing to present a "Middle East peace plan" within weeks, which Israel should accept, was misleading, although he admitted the details had not been worked out yet.
According to our Washington sources, the Obama White House is not thinking in terms of a new peace plan but a multinational conference on the lines of the Madrid conference convened by the first President George Bush to take place in November this year.
Israel may not be too eager to take part because as in Madrid 1, it will be heavily outnumbered.
This is how the Obama administration envisages the event:
1. It will be attended by leading Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, as well as major powers from outside the region, e.g. Russia, China, India and Europe.
2. The first business on the agenda will be Israeli peace accords with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon as sketched out by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell in his last briefings to Israeli, Palestinian and Syrian leaders last week.
3. Separate panels will deal with two central issues: the disarmament of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the region including Israel, and the distribution of its water resources.
4. The conference will take place alongside prospective US-Iranian negotiations - if they take off in September.
5. Mitchell informed Israeli and Syrian leaders that the plan had won British, French and German approval.
He promised Syrian president Bashar Assad that Obama would personally undertake to arrange peace talks with Israel under his auspices, so cutting Turkey out of the picture.
Our Washington sources stress that the Americans have not finished working on their Middle East conference plan and many particulars remain to be fleshed out. However, the defense minister Ehud Barak jumped the gun because Wednesday, Aug. 5, he faces a storm of opposition at the national convention of his Labor Party, and he needed a strong message to rally support.
And when he doesn't succeed, he will lash out at the nearest available target---American Jews.