Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Annapolis prospects: Bad vibes for Israeli-Palestinian agreement

The future of the Middle East may reach a crucial junction at the Annapolis meeting planned for November. Looking at the different actions and statements of leaders, and at reactions of analysts  Eran Lerman, Oded EranYossi AlpherDaoud Kuttab and Ghassan Khattib, we are forced to conclude that prospects for success are dismal, and at the same time, nobody seems to realize the stakes
The Palestinians are still stuck on making making unrealistic demands and not even considering that they need to think about concessions. The Palestinian rhetoric of 2007 doesn't sound much different from the rhetoric of 2000.  Alone among the Israeli analysts,  Yossi Alpher seems to realize the consequences that may ensue if the negotiations fail. Eran Lerman and Oded Eran, like the Israeli government, seem to be counting on coming up with some meaningless bumph that will give the conference an artificial flavor of "success." The conduct of the negotiations is reminiscent of the Lebanon war, when Ehud Olmert and his cohorts continued to make bombastic statements about war aims up to the last minute, and then tried to sell the meaningless UN resolution as a successful solution. For Americans, failure of this meeting may seal the fate of their position in the Middle East. Since they could not mop the ocean of Iraq, the Americans proposed instead that they could dry it up by squaring the circle of Israeli-Palestinian peace. When they can't do that either, they will lose the confidence of every state in the region, except possibly Israel, which can't be choosy about allies. For Palestinians, failure of the Annapolis meeting will probably mean failure of the government of Mahmoud Abbas. That would leave them with two possibilities: utter chaos or rule by the Hamas. Failure of the Abbas government would be disastrous for Israel. The nightmare of missiles launched against aircraft at Ben Gurion airport, is forecast by those who don't want to make concessions, but it could well be braought about by failure of this meeting.
Israeli analysts are right that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seems to have had no clue what she was risking when she proposed this conference. Yossi Alpher's assessment that she is out of her depth is unfortunately correct. She made a mistake, and she has no clue now about how to fix it. Someone had better do some hard thinking, before it is too late.
Ami Isseroff

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