Wednesday, December 5

After the Annapolis Summit

The red carpet treatment was meted out to the main players and the overflow went to the other delegates as well. The main players were President Mahmoud Abbas, P.M. Ehud Olmert, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and President George Bush who was trying to emulate ex-President Bill Clinton. All the speeches that were made were very diplomatic - almost mesmerizing. So many hopeful statements were made giving an air of optimism that in reality is an illusion. How can one not feel a sense of cynicism and skepticism after hearing the speeches of all these players?

What was interesting to note was the body language of the participants in their interaction with one another. So much warmth was exhibited between Bush, Olmert and Abbas. These three gentlemen have one big thing in common – their common weakness! This weakness will illustrate their inability to make any decisions in the near future. It showed up so blatantly during the summit proceedings. There was no joint declaration between Israel and the Palestinians. This came as no surprise. Instead, we all witnessed a rather watered-down statement read out by President Bush at the commencement of the summit. This was followed by Abbas and Olmert’s speeches. Here was a hint of more banalities to come. Both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders gave good speeches, saying the right things that the other delegates wanted to hear.

The end of the summit did not give the successful photo scoop that we all wanted to see. There was a fizzling out of proceedings as the Summit ended and the delegates returned home. No momentum was created nor did any reason for optimism come out of all this. Instead we were all left “high and dry”. Perhaps “low and dry” is more appropriate. There was a false feeling that the attendance of the Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and some other non-Arab Moslem countries added a certain amount of importance to achieving a positive result. This was not the case. The whole Summit was a blip on the TV screen and newspaper media which will go down in history as another non-event soon to be forgotten like all the other meetings in the past.

It is almost certain that Israel will not be prepared to discuss “core issues” such as right of return of refugees, Jerusalem being the capital of two states, final borders of Israel which includes a return to the borders prior to June 1967 and thus an end to the occupation. The reason – Olmert does not have a mandate from his coalition to negotiate these issues despite what he said at the summit. Abbas is not in any better position to make decisions in security matters. Palestine is divided into two entities today - Gaza ruled by Hamas and the West Bank by Fatah. The latter will lose strength as it is under threat from Hamas to take over the West Bank the way they took over in Gaza. The only way that Abbas can survive is by getting support from the US and Israel. This is not a healthy state of affairs from the Palestinian viewpoint. It turns Abbas and his Fatah supporters into Israeli and US stooges and this would result in their grassroots support being further weakened.

It will become clear that Abbas’s power base, or what is left of it, will be further weakened. A huge question remains to be answered. Where does Hamas fit in the negotiating patterns? Hamas is so opposed to any form of rapprochement with Israel. The statements of Hamas PM Haniyeh of Gaza have made this so crystal clear as to leave no doubts. This goes against all the statements made by Abbas. The conclusion is that the Palestinians were not represented in their entirety at Annapolis. Their representation was a problem even prior to the Annapolis Summit.

It is very unlikely that Israel will stick to its side of the bargain as proposed by Ehud Olmert at Annapolis. The chances of movement towards a negotiated settlement leading to a Palestinian State are remote. It is also unlikely that Israel will cease existing settlement expansion as well as establishing new settlements in the occupied territories. The right wing parties, Shas and Israel Beitenu, will pressure the coalition government to expand settlement activity. How this can be an impetus to the creation of a Palestinian state defies all logic.

It is doubtful if President Mahmoud Abbas will use his security police to fight terror against Israel. Apart from that, Hamas will be doing everything to destroy Abbas’s minuscule power base. Abbas will lean more on US and Israeli resources to keep him in power.

Maybe it would be a good idea for Olmert to fire his right wing coalition partners and replace them with Meretz and the Arab parties. It could strengthen Olmert’s negotiating stance with the Palestinians as he would gain support from the Israeli Arab community. It could also neutralize Hamas by either pushing them further into the sidelines or making them more pragmatic in their attitude towards Israel. This idea will not be approved by most of the Israeli electorate. If the right wing remains in the coalition, it will lead to a dead end and a total lack of progress. The question is whether this is a gamble worth taking.

1 comment:

Ridwan said...

I don't think Ehud Olmert agrees on a true peace deal with Palestine, and Bush doesn't agree with anything that Olmert disagrees with. Mahmoud Abbas has always appeared to be an optimist without the necessary strength and resolve needed for his position.