Mideast peace talks scuttlebutt
The kids are headed back to school, the days are steadily growing shorter, and Labor Day is almost upon us. That can only mean one thing: the 2010-2011 diplomatic season is about to begin! Those summer vacations will soon be a distant memory.
First up, even before Labor Day hits, are the Middle East peace talks. Dignitaries and their delegations will descend on DC for meetings and dinner at the White House on September 1, followed by the formal launch of Israeli-Palestinian direct talks at the State Department on September 2.
At the White House, all eyes will be on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, making his first visit to Washington in some time. Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt since 1981, is now 82 and guessing about the state of his health has become an increasingly anxious parlor game for U.S. officials. While his regime's human rights record is much criticized, Mubarak has been a constant in the Middle East for three decades, generally supporting U.S. goals and standing by the "cold peace" with Israel made by his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
One Middle Eastern diplomat whose leaders recently held talks with Mubarak reported that he is alert and engaged, which is at odds with media reports that he is virtually on his deathbed.
The Obama-ites have not said much about what is supposed to happen after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meet at the State Department, to kick off the peace negotiations that it took President Barack Obama 19 months to arrange. The agenda, structure -- and the very future -- of the talks is vague.
We hear a second round of talks is supposed to take place in mid-September and, if they haven't broken down by then, a third round somewhere in the Middle East in October.