By Dr Marwan Asmar
29 November, 2007
it was seen as a venue for handshakes and smiles, nothing more than
a get-together. But Annapolis defied all expectations for suddenly the
Palestinian-Israeli peace process is back on track with agendas, meetings
and timetables. Palestinians and Israelis are pals again.
President George W. Bush appeared to have used a magic wand to have
brought the protagonists together, which were seen bending over backwards
to please each other and in one full swipe kick-started the peace process
after it had lain dormant for the last six or seven years.
it was Israel that has been foot-dragging about peace, negotiations
and military railing into Palestinian areas were here nor there, and
all brushed under the carpet. At Annapolis it was both sides that purportedly
agreed to wipe the slate clean, and sit at the negotiating table once
It’s like one day you don’t have it, the other you do, the
Palestinian and Israeli delegations went to Annapolis without having
agreed on a final document, without having anything in their hand. The
issues were complex, and neither side willing to submit to anything.
the first hours of the venue, they declared they would be willing to
re-start final status negotiations and have an agreement before 2008,
just when American president George W. Bush leaves office. They fact
there are fundamental and intractable issues still to be sorted out
were papered over in the interest of allowing Annapolis to have a modicum
of success, both felt the idea of meeting rather than not meeting was
the best solution regardless of what come may.
politicians and direct parties feel doubtful a final status agreement
would be achieved by that time or in the near future but for the time
being Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert are basking in the Middle East sunlight saying they would
go on hammering for a peace solution that may result in a final settlement
and Palestinian statehood.
What is disturbing
many as well is that before the Annapolis meet, both sides failed to
reach any understanding on the fundamental issues relating to the Palestinians,
including the issues of borders, return of refugees, Jerusalem and statehood.
How will that now be achieved is anybody’s guess, but many may
agree with Henry Kissinger’s dictum that you “talk everyone
to death” and might be the best way out.
are fundamental, they have to be dealt with and agreed on to give any
meaning to a final and just solution to the Palestinian cause. While
Israel may talk and talk, their politicians may not feel the pressing
need to act simply because they are in the driving seat. What is happening
now maybe beyond the wildest imaginations, or maybe it’s the fact
Israel knows it can continue to pay lip service to a peace process that
has dragged on since the first Madrid peace conference in 1991 which
appears to be history.
issues were left hanging on the air, and for good reason. They were
not discussed at Annapolis while Palestinian and Israeli delegates felt
it was prudent to wait for the re-start of the peace process and the
final status talks as we had not been on the same road before.
the Israelis and the Americans preferred not to discuss these issues
at Annapolis in the interest of making the meet a success which has
been lavishly displayed through the Olmert-Abbas handshakes, hugs, handshakes
and more hugs which actually left many wondering just why are these
people sworn enemies.
actually do this to one another. Palestinian politicians are once again
over stretching their hand in a disparate attempt to reach a political
solution to show their Hamas opponents a deal can be reached. But like
Israelis, Palestinians know that Annapolis was also a good opportunity
under the guise of the 40-odd countries, NGO and international organizations
that attended, and clapped at the speeches, and warmly mingled with
for the first time Israelis—including Foreign Minister Tipsi Livni
and Defense Minister Ehud Barak where seen mingling with Arab League’s
Secretary General Amr Mousa and the 17 representatives of Arab countries
that attended the conference.
the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal made it clear he would not
shake hands with the Israelis is actually small talk in the light of
the fact of the Arab presence in Annapolis is a de facto recognition
of Israel, her existence and her presence on the Middle East map.
shake would surely be forthcoming, but must also depend on more progress
being achieved on the Palestinian track, which Israel is good on foot-stalling
being the stronger party of the two.
Annapolis many suggested the meet would fail for many reasons but mainly
because the Israelis were not serious, and the Americans wanted a showcase
success. But with agreeing to kick-start the peace process, the Israelis
have shown under the guise of the international community they are indeed
serious, giving their erstwhile U.S., ally the necessary ammunition
to tell the Arab countries they would do what they can to help bring
about a peace settlement and serve their long-term foreign policy objectives
in the Middle East at the same time.
has shown, and is showing that everyone came and everyone can go home
happy. The Israeli have made a commitment to talk, although Olmert will
still have to face the music when he gets back to Israel, Abbas will
tell his supporters, they are back on track of negotiations from now
on while the Arabs can go home feeling what they achieved is a another
beginning of a negotiated settlement.
As far as
the Syrian and Lebanese tracks are concerned, well they just may have
to wait another day with at least the message being delivered that Syria
and Israel will have to talk to each other sooner or latter. Many observers
can’t help but believe that the end of the Golan Height occupation
was a carrot dangled by the Americans for the Syrians to attend.
On face value,
at Annapolis peace negotiations were restarted again. How far it will
reach, that’s anybody’s guess, will it be even strangled
in its cot since the first of such meetings begins on 12 December, we
will have to wait and see.
is an Amman-based writer
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