Misplaced optimism

Palestinian Authority (West Bank branch) President Mahmoud Abbas is optimistic:

Israel and the Palestinians may sign a peace agreement within six months of the international Mideast peace conference scheduled for November, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday. — Jerusalem Post

Leaving aside the question of the more than 1 million Palestinians who live in Hamas-run Gaza, what has changed since 2000 to make this possible?

Has Israel’s attitude changed toward the Palestinian demand, not softened by Abbas, to resettle the descendants of Palestinian refugees in Israel?

Have the Palestinians indicated that they would be prepared to accept any less of Jerusalem than all of the areas formerly occupied by Jordan? Will they allow Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount?

Have the Saudis, billed as the stars of the upcoming conference, given us any reason to believe that the Arab League proposal on which this conference is supposedly based will offer Israel anything other than terms of surrender?

Does Syria, which the US wishes to invite to the conference, have any more desire to end the conflict with Israel than in the past (see Barry Rubin’s opinion here)?

No, there is only one thing that is driving this conference, and that is the US desire to gain concessions from Syria and help from Saudi Arabia in respect to Iraq. The polite way to put it is the way it appeared in the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report:

Iraq cannot be addressed effectively in isolation from other major regional issues, interests, and unresolved conflicts. To put it simply, all key issues in the Middle East—the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, Iran, the need for political and economic reforms, and extremism and terrorism—are inextricably linked…

The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and particularly Syria—which is the principal transit point for shipments of weapons to Hezbollah, and which supports radical Palestinian groups.

I’ve argued that this ‘linkage’ idea is nonsense. Unfortunately, the US State Department doesn’t agree with me, and so is moving ahead with its plan to trade its only reliable ally in the Mideast for probably worthless promises from the Arab nations.

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