Tuesday, November 27, 2007

If This Is Success

The last thing I heard before going to bed last night was a French news report on the Annapolis summit stating that the Israelis and Palestinians couldn't even agree on a joint statement to read at summit's end. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they did at least manage to hammer one out over the course of the day, allowing President Bush to get his "handshake photo op".

Be that as it may, the actual content of the statement doesn't seem to actually warrant an international conference, much less anything approaching high expectations. Which might be why Eli Yoshai, the head of Israel's ultra-orthodox rightwing Shas party, told Haaretz that:

...The speeches at the Annapolis conference [were] "dreams" and out of touch with a reality where Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is incapable of fighting terror or establishing control.

Yishai added that the Shas party has no intention of leaving the government in protest to the joint Israeli-Palestinian statement reached at the conference, saying that there is no reason to do so as the agreements have no possibility of being carried out.

Of course, Yishai's refusal to remove Shas from the government coalition might have more to do with the fact that it will be better placed to saboutage any negotiations from within Olmert's majority than from the outside. But that's just another reason not to get one's hopes too high, and a reminder of how disproportionate an influence extremists have on both sides of the conflict.

On the other hand, maybe there's something to the counterintuitive idea that two leaders as weak as Olmert and Abbas are can hammer out a peace treaty, since it's about the only thing either of them can do to satisfy public opinion, which supports peace on both sides of the conflict. The problem, as always, is in the details. And in the fact that Hamas doesn't recognize Abbas' authority to negotiate. And in the fact that the Likoud is never more than a suicide bombing away from regaining power in Israel. And so on ad nauseum.

I'd like nothing more than to be pleasantly surprised by what follows. But it's not a good sign when a supposedly successful peace summit leaves you feeling this despondent about the actual chances for peace.

Posted by Judah in:  The Middle East   

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