Ed O'Loughlin of the Melbourne Age is back in Jerusalem after completing his tour of Beirut and yesterday brought his latest piece, UNEASY ALLIANCE BRINGS HOPE in which he reports that "rival Palestinian factions are about to form a unity government in the hope of ending a crippling international aid embargo, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has signalled a fresh willingness to talk to the Palestinians."
O'Loughlin bases his report and an interview given to the Guardian newspaper in which the Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh said that a proposed coalition between Hamas and Fatah would be based on the so-called "prisoners' document", a political manifesto drawn up by senior Palestinian prisoners which calls for an independent Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
O'Loughlin informs us that "some see this platform as a de facto recognition by Hamas of Israel's existence, since it moves away from the Islamic militant group's official aim of destroying the Jewish state."
Of course, some others see it entirely differently including a number of Hamas spokespeople and indeed, as O'Loughlin himself adds later that "… nor was there any sign that Hamas was prepared to explicitly recognise Israel's right to exist".
At least he got the motivation for the unity government right. It's a clear attempt to overcome the international community's aid embargo while the PA is run by an organisation set on Israel's destruction. The problem is that even after a coalition is formed the PA will still be run by a bunch of terrorists but it might be enough to break down the embargo given the lack of principles held by some of the players concerned.
What O'Loughlin clearly doesn't get right - and never has - is the claim that Kadimah under Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has never been willing to negotiate with the Palestinians.
"Mr. Olmert was yesterday reported to have told a parliamentary committee that his Government was keen to explore talks with the Palestinians, a possible shift from his previous insistence that Israel would impose its own interim Palestinian solution."
The claim that this represents a shift in Olmert's position is patently false.
Olmert has always said he would pursue negotiations first and only if they failed to take place would unilateral action be taken.
The following article from PEACEWATCH deals with both of the matters covered above and show how O'Loughlin's slant on things is, as usual, somewhat misleading if not an example of his outright ignorance on the politics of the region.