President Bush's planned Middle East peace summit is rapidly being transformed into an event that will rival the Tales from the Arabian Nights .
It seems no one is listening to what the Arabs are saying - which is nothing new.
However you would think that after sixty years of drum beating by the likes of Arafat, Abbas , Haniyeh ,Assad Senior and Junior and the Arab League the message might have started getting through to opinion makers and influence peddlers in the West that the Arabs ( apart from Egypt and Jordan) are really not interested in a peace deal with Israel - that the demands they are making are the exact antithesis of a desire to peacefully end a conflict that has existed between the Arabs and the Jews for the last 125 years.
A flurry of meetings being presently undertaken by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with Palestinian Authority President and PLO Executive Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have led to much speculation in the media of a peace deal being done that will be announced to an expectant world at President Bush's summit in the fall.
Michael Williams the United Nations Special Co-Ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process ( as fancy a title you could ever be given) is apparently in raptures at what has been taking place at these talks in Jerusalem, Jericho, Ramallah and even in Mr Olmert's own home. He told the United Nations Security Council yesterday:
"There is a hope now which has been absent for almost seven years."
Seven years? What about the Quartet's Road Map announced in a blaze of pomp and circumstance in 2003? Is the United Nations spokesman telling us there was indeed never any hope of success when this plan was announced and to which the United Nations was a sponsoring signatory? If so why did the Quartet try to convince everyone it offered the only hope for peace?
It gets even worse for Mr Williams as he gushed:
"Both sides have reported substantive discussions and exchanges of ideas on permanent status issues , as well as confidence- building steps. There appears to be a welcome common desire to reach an agreement or understanding that could be presented to November's international meeting."
Not to be outdone, Riyad Mansour the Palestinian UN observer told the Security Council:
"There is at this time a significant opportunity before us to end the Israeli occupation and towards the attainment of the two state solution"
Mr Williams said:
"with 10-12 weeks to play for, and with the very strong basis that they have now, I'm convinced that they can make real movement in that regard"
So much for the fantasy. It is a pipe dream totally divorced from reality.
What has actually occurred at these "substantive discussions" can best be gleaned from the comments of Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator who on the very same day said:
"Today's meeting was good and thorough, but until now we haven't discussed any details related to the fundamental issues"
More tellingly Mr Erekat had this to say:
"The Palestinian leadership wants peace, but not at any price. The peace we are seeking must be based on all the UN resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the Arab peace plan of 2002, the road map and the US President George W. Bush's vision for two states. Together, all these plans and resolutions will lead to an end of the Israeli occupation of all the territories that were occupied in 1967."
In other words Mr Erekat was repeating the identical formula that has been repeated ad nauseam since 1967 - the return of every square meter of territory captured by Israel in the Six Day War including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem - a formula which has not and can never be accepted by Israel.
Despite Israel releasing hundreds of terrorists, granting amnesties from arrest to scores of other known terrorists, transferring tax revenue running into hundreds of millions of dollars and supplying additional weapons to the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat continues to hum the same song that can only lead to President Bush's upcoming talkfest leading nowhere.
The amazing thing is that the Western leaders still rely on the optimistic assessments of people like Mr Williams, when they only have to read what Arab spokesman are actually saying to understand that the idea of creating a 23 rd Arab State in 5% of historic Palestine is a tale straight out of the Arabian Nights.