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Annapolis: walking off the cliff?


This very pessimistic view of the prospects of the Annapolis conference unlike that of Eran Lerman, implies that it is very likely to fail, and that it if it does fail, it will make matters worse. I tend to agree with this assessment. Alpher doesn't spell out how failure will make things worse. We have to think about all the consequences of failure or failure that is spun to look like success. It seems we are on the brink of a precipice, as usual, and about to take a great leap forward.

Ami Isseroff

Making matters worse

by Yossi Alpher

About ten days ago, I made the rounds of the think tanks in Washington, DC, discussing current American/Middle East issues with colleagues. From scholars of the far right to the left, no one believed the Annapolis conference would succeed. The level of cynicism regarding the Bush administration's motives and capabilities in the Middle East was depressing. Between the lines was a consistent assessment that, in pressing the case for the conference, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was out of her depth.

These dim prospects for the Annapolis conference cannot be separated from earlier and more obvious failures of US policy in the greater Middle East, from Pakistan and Afghanistan via Iran and Iraq to Lebanon, all intertwined with the fiasco of President Bush's democratization program for the region. In Arab eyes the Annapolis conference--a last-ditch American attempt to deal with an issue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that has been neglected for seven years--is intimately connected to these other problematic issue areas. The Annapolis project seeks to display an American commitment to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will ensure broader Arab backing for the US position in Iraq and regarding Iran. So far, the Saudis, Egyptians and others are not impressed.

None of this might matter if Washington had politically capable leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah to work with. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas lacks authority--the latest news of a Fateh assassination plot against PM Ehud Olmert last June in Jericho simply drives home the point--and Olmert's coalition threatens to come apart the closer he comes to Annapolis. There is nothing new here: Abbas has constantly failed to translate his good intentions into a working government, while Olmert brings to Annapolis a dowry of failed strategic judgments, criminal investigations, Winograd commission condemnations and a coalition structured for survival, not peace.

Why don't Bush and Rice perceive this and save themselves the embarrassment? Presumably because their own understanding of Middle East dynamics since 9/11 is so poor. Their energies would be far better applied to backing, encouraging and directing Quartet envoy Tony Blair in his task of building those very Palestinian security, economic and governance institutions that have failed hitherto and whose efficient functioning is a necessary prerequisite to any successful effort at creating a viable Palestinian state. In the long term, that would enhance Arab and Israeli trust in their policies far more than the Annapolis conference, which should be postponed.

We Israelis and Palestinians, in our ongoing failure to end our conflict, should presumably avoid pointing the finger at Washington and blaming it for our troubles. Yet we have long since recognized that our conflict is bigger than the geographical confines of Eretz Yisrael/Palestine. The broader crises in the Middle East--Islamization, Iraq, Iran, the weakness of the Arab state system--have in recent years been exacerbated by American mismanagement. Now Bush and Rice are heading for yet another failure in the region. This one too will only compound existing problems.

Yossi Alpher is the Israeli coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former special adviser to PM Ehud Barak. Alpher's article first appeared at bitterlemons.org on 22/10/2007 and is copyright by bittlerlemons.org

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000636.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 1 Comment

"Abbas has constantly failed to translate his good intentions a working government..." It is hard to believe that anyone could possibly still believe that Holocaust denier Abu Mazen has "good intentions" other than the fulfillment of the "PLO Phased Plan" written in Cairo in 1974, which explains the three phases--terror, nationalization, outright war--to first delegitimize, then eradicate Israel. The notion of a distinct "Palestinian people" is the creation of Yasser Arafat’s propaganda machine after the 1967 war. The non-Jews in the region have always been Arabs who speak Arabic and whose religion is Islam. There is no such thing as a unique and distinct “Palestinian people.” Besides, 71% of the so-called "Palestinians" do not want two states. They want one state, a "Palestinian" state that requires the destruction of the present state of Israel. Good intentions, alright. If your definitioin of "peace" is the end of Israel's existence as a nation.

Posted by Daniel Hennessy @ 10/25/2007 03:18 AM CST

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