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What will be the long lasting impact of the Annapolis meeting? Surely it was a tale full of sound and fury, and we know who tells such tales. But it is too early to tell what, if anything, it might mean in terms of immediate and practical results.

It is dangerous to make predictions, but I will venture to say that there will be no Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Equally, however, I would be very surprised if the current status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank can be continued indefinitely, with or without the Annapolis meeting. I would also be very surprised if Israel actually implements a real freeze on settlement growth in the West Bank. We would all, surely, be very surprised if the Palestinian Authority suppresses terror and sets up an orderly administration in the West Bank, and we would all be flabbergasted if they could extend their control to Gaza.

It is impossible to know what the Annapolis meeting means, because the sides themselves do not know exactly what they wanted to achieve there and do not know what they are going to do next. The United States has several conflicting goals. These reflect the respective viewpoints of the Bush administration itself, which is basically pro-Israel, the State Department people who are anti-Israel, and Ms Rice, who is apparently not sure what Israel is and thinks that Palestinian terrorists are like Martin Luther King. When Americans disagree, they do not reach consensus before presenting their viewpoint. The disagreement is evident in conflicting actions that they take. The US introduced a Security Council resolution supporting the Annapolis meeting. That was the State Department people speaking. They did this without consulting Israel, because they knew what Israel would say about the Security Council. Putting the UN in charge of the peace process is like making Torquemada a Kashruth inspector. The UN, after all, has just celebrated its annual Palestine Solidarity Day.

Then the US retracted the resolution, because Israel objected. That was the Bush administration people at work. The gap between the State Department and presidency over Hamas. Surely, the Fatah leaders don't want that!

The Israelis don't know what they want either, and neither does the Zionist movement as a whole. On the one hand, Olmert hinted at great concessions. On the other hand, the government is considering different ways to get out of the settlement freeze obligation, and is thinking of making a procedure that will allow "illegal outposts" to be legal. Olmert announced that there would be no concessions regarding the old city of Jerusalem or the temple mount, but the Palestinians claimed that he had already traded away sovereignty over the temple mount.

The Arabs don't know what they want either. It is hard to know if the Syrian attendance at Annapolis signified anything or what it signified. As soon as the meeting was over, the government controlled Syrian press began delegitimizing it. If they were going to do that, why did they attend? They got one thing out of it: in Lebanon, the March 14 movement, the anti-Syrians, suddenly removed their opposition to election of Suleiman as a "compromise" presidential candidate. Syria is now hurrying to explain to Iran why they attended the conference. Perhaps they were simply invited to drive a rift between them and Iran. They were invited, but they didn't get anything. They didn't get discussion of the Golan heights or any open concessions regarding Lebanon, which is the issue that really concerns them. As for the rest of the Arab states, they came, they snubbed the Israelis and they went home. Their attendance supposedly signified legitimation of the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah. But no sooner had the conference ended, then the Egyptians and the Saudis once again called for Hamas-Fatah rapprochement, which would mean, essentially, liquidation of the Fatah and the peace process.

For the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Annapolis conference, and the whole peace process, is a show for the foreign Khawajas. It is a necessary evil that must be endured for the sake of US backing. Along with going through the motions of peace, and perhaps genuine attempts at making peace, leaders of both sides must play a dual or triple role, which explains why they cannot really make up their minds about what they want. As peace makers, they must endure the sniping of extremists who can make a "national issue" out of every point. The Palestinian extremists insist that Mahmoud Abbas is a traitor because he is willing to give up Tel Aviv and Haifa, and insist that he is giving up right of return and Jerusalem as well. The Jewish extremists insist that Ehud Olmert is a traitor because he is alluding to removing any settlements at all. On the other hand, as representatives of their own sides in the peace negotiations, the leaders have to present themselves as tough bargainers, and to insist on the very points that the extremists want.

What the Israelis and Palestinians gained from the conference, clearly, is that they placated the Americans, and that is important. That clearly was the main goal of both sides. What the Bush administration gained is that it can now say to the State Department people and the Arab states is that it has "made progress" on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Mission accomplished.

It is unlikely that any of this show will have an immediate practical effect. At this stage however, any peace meeting whatever is of some significance, and a peace meeting that is attended by Saudi Arabia is of historic significance. Progress and change in the Middle East is usually measured in a time frame of hundreds of years or at least decades. Saudi attendance shows that the Arabs are starting to change the way that they look at the conflict and are changing their image of their own role in that conflict. It took sixty years to get the Saudis and the Israelis in the same room. Perhaps in another sixty years they will shake hands with the Israelis too.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2007. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000456.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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It saddens me to think that Israel's survival depends on America's cowardly and appeasing aproach to their own and Israel's enemies. This policy can only bring disaster to both countries. The fundamental cause is their philosophy of Pragmatism: this perverted view holds that there's no objective reality; that consciousness creates it's own reality, that the're no absolutes:no right or wrong, only that which works today , but not necessarily tomorrow, and a heap of othe irrational ideas , by which the American intellectuals lead their nation, but particularly Isral to the brink of catastrophie.

Henry Davis, Wednesday, December 5th


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