Saturday, November 24

Annapolis Summit – to be a Total Failure or Limited Success

There are only a few days left before the Annapolis Summit gets under way. The press hype from all sides will increase in its ferocity about its impending failure or limited success. On the eve of this summit, it is only natural for those interested in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to predict as to what the result of the proceedings will bring. It is fair to remind all those who seek a genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians to give support to the leadership of both Israelis and Palestinians, despite their known weaknesses, for the success of Annapolis.

The odds weighing against the success of this summit are varied and many on both the Israeli and Palestinian side. I have written about the problems in a previous article. Nothing has changed. Despite all these misgivings, it is the only show in town whereby two leaders (even though both are very weak in the eyes of their people) of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples will be meeting despite the fact that they have not even presented a Joint Declaration of Principles before the summit.

It is perhaps a good sign that the Saudis have announced their attendance, so has Syria according to a report in Al Jazeera. That is the good news. Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan, who have signed peace treaties with Israel, will also be there. The bad news is the lack of support by Hamas and Iran (which is no surprise!).

Both PM Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas have their hands tied by the extremists in their respective countries. This means that the “core issues” – the real basis of the problems that have perpetuated the conflict will not be discussed. This weakens the summit as both main players and their representatives will achieve very little apart from a joint declaration to carry on negotiating about substance that will be procrastinated almost indefinitely. This will be Olmert’s tactic to maintain the right wing Yisrael Beitenu and Shas Parties in his overburdened coalition as well as the Labour Party. It will be a tight rope walk for Olmert but at the end of the day the coalition will remain intact while all the “core issues” will be placed under the carpet for discussion at a future unspecified date.

It remains to be seen how the Palestinians will accept that after the summit ends. It will weaken Mahmoud Abbas even further in the eyes of his people. They will say that he sold out to the Israelis and the US and this could strengthen Hamas’s hand and pose a danger to Abbas’s moderate leadership in the West Bank which is rather shaky anyway.

The Israeli right wing, by its opposition to discussing “core issues” is playing into the hands of Hamas by weakening Mahmoud Abbas even further. The Hamas are relying on this tactic. This makes Hamas and the Israeli right wing very strange bedfellows indeed – each for their own narrow reasons. If by some miracle, the “core issues” are discussed and a formula is found for a fair solution that is suitable to both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, Hamas and its terrorist allies will be weakened and so will the right wing in Israel be weakened. Surely this is desirable for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

If extremists on both sides could be neutralized, the chances of a successful Annapolis Summit would be far greater. It is an unfortunate reality that this is far from the case. The agenda will be so watered down resulting in a platform for neutral, meaningless declarations of no substance that will allow both sides to claim success. This will result in procrastination being the thief of time and many will view this summit as a total failure rather than a limited success.

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