ANAL­Y­SIS Talk­ing down a non-event

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIELLA PELED

CYN­I­CISM IS hardly a scarce com­mod­ity when it comes to the Mid­dle East peace process. Yet it is hard to re­mem­ber when a sum­mit was mooted as such a non-event as the forth­com­ing An­napo­lis con­fer­ence.

It be­gan as a US-spon­sored sum­mit — which Jerusalem has taken pains to down­grade to a mere “meet­ing” — for the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing, cru­cially, a spec­trum of Arab states, to sup­port Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans in restart­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Yet that now seems laugh­able, not least be­cause of the fun­da­men­tal weak­ness of the three main par­ties.

Pales­tinian Prime Min­is­ter Mah­moud Ab­bas is be­ing de­scribed th­ese days as lit­tle more than the mayor of Ra­mal­lah. Ehud Olmert, be­set by cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions, knows that his po­si­tion is too shaky to with­stand any mean­ing­ful con­ces­sions. And Pres­i­dent Bush is in the clas­sic lame-duck phase of a spec­tac­u­larly un­suc­cess­ful pres­i­dency.

Talk­ing to Is­raelis, it is near im­pos­si­ble to find any­one with even a low ex­pec­ta­tion of suc­cess. Most ap­pear not to care one way or an­other about An­napo­lis; those who do as­sume that it is doomed. Asked for the best­case sce­nario, one vet­eran an­a­lyst says bluntly that the meet­ing may “post­pone the fail­ure of the process by an­other month or so”. And af­ter An­napo­lis? Even if the Is­raelis and the Pales­tini­ans man­age to ham­mer out a rea­son­able joint dec­la­ra­tion, they are far from be­ing able to de­liver it.

For­mer Pales­tinian pre­mier Ahmed Qureia warns of a new out­break of vi­o­lence if the sum­mit fails; Is­raeli intelligence coun­ters that the Pales­tini­ans are sim­ply too tired and weak for an­other in­tifada. But it seems the most likely con­se­quence is fur­ther chaos, with the con­tin­u­ing diminu­tion of Fatah and con­cur­rent strength­en­ing of Ha­mas.

The re­jec­tion­ist counter-sum­mit that Ha­mas, Is­lamic Ji­had and oth­ers plan to con­vene in Da­m­as­cus looks likely to re­sult in a lit­tle more con­sen­sus — and may be a more ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tor of what the fu­ture holds.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.