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The Annapolis conference: Doomed?

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 15, 2007 02:33 PM

At the end of the month, the city of Annapolis, Maryland, will host a U.S.-brokered meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Syria is reportedly mulling attendance–conditioned on discussions including the return of the Golan Heights.

Those who remember history are not optimistic about the summit’s prospects. The word “folly” keeps cropping up. And this satirical summit invitation is making the rounds (click on image for full size):

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Gary Rosenblatt:

Sadly, diplomatic amnesia has descended on Washington once again.

And while I, of course, favor a two-state peace solution between Israel and the Palestinians, for now I find myself agreeing more with Hamas than with Condoleezza Rice — at least in believing that the planned peace conference set for Annapolis in the near future is a waste of time, and could lead to more bloodshed.

The notion of the U.S. sponsoring peace talks to hammer out a settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis by smoothing over their deep differences with carefully chosen phrases rather than smartly crafted solutions, and pushing off the toughest decisions for the end of the talks, should have ended with the failure of Oslo.

At the outset of that painful process, in the summer of 1993, when President Clinton engineered the handshake on the White House lawn between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat, there was a naïve sense that Arafat really wanted peace more than he wanted to see, and oversee, the destruction of the Jewish state. But the sad fact, as we came to learn after a period of bloody suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli women and children, was that Arafat was a liar and calculated murderer who was not prepared to take even the most basic steps toward fulfilling the promises he made — namely to seek to stop the violence against Israel.

I recall hearing Shimon Peres dismissing Arafat’s two-faced behavior of calling for peace in English to the Western world and preaching jihad in Arabic to the Arab world by insisting, “give the man his rhetoric.” And some of us took Peres’ advice, leading with our hearts rather than our heads, wanting so much to believe that peace was possible that we denied the realities around us, like the constant demonization of Jews in the Palestinian press and textbooks as well as on television and by the imams in the mosques.

In the end, reality caught up to fantasy, and when Arafat was caught trying to smuggle arms in by sea, and openly lying about it, even officials in Washington had to acknowledge that the game was up.

Now we hear that of course Oslo was doomed because Arafat was a thug, but that things are different because Mahmoud Abbas, his successor as Palestinian Authority president, is a reasonable and civilized man who speaks out against terror. That may be true, but he is also a weak leader who has been unable or unwilling to take on the more militant factions of Fatah, which he heads, not to mention his failure in confronting Hamas, which now controls Gaza.

And while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has endorsed fully the planned peace talks set for Annapolis in the near future, he, too, is a weak leader at home.

At least part of the reason why there have not been more loud reservations expressed in Israel about tackling the final-status issues of Jerusalem, borders, settlements and refugees is that few take the Annapolis talks seriously enough at this point.

A leading Israeli official told me recently that “Annapolis can’t succeed,” but he shrugged his shoulders when asked why the Olmert government would proceed if that was the case. “If the U.S. wants it, what can we do?”

Meanwhile, there’s lots of secretive and strange behavior at the State Department on disclosing any details about the upcoming event:

Just two weeks before an international Middle East conference in Annapolis, Washington has the world guessing about a gathering aimed at jumpstarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Officials have not yet announced the conference’s exact date, its duration, described the level of representation or released an agenda, sowing doubts about its prospects and causing confusion among Washington’s allies.

American, Israeli and European diplomatic sources have all said that the full conference will be held on Tuesday, November 27, following a dinner the previous evening.

But US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack refused again Wednesday to announce a date.

“We may have a date, but I’m not prepared to share it yet,” he said, triggering laughter. “I’m not going to make any announcements about the Annapolis meeting. Invitations have not yet gone out.”

McCormack refused to say why the government of US President George W. Bush, which in July announced plans for an Middle East conference in the autumn, was keeping details secret and risking the impression it was badly prepared.

Posted in: Israel