Representatives of Israel’s Left and Right have found something to agree about: the Annapolis conference is not a good idea:
The unanimous opinion was voiced by four leading MKs currently visiting Washington for a series of high-ranking meetings prior to the conference. On Tuesday the group met with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns and Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Jeffrey.
Following the meeting with Jeffrey, [left-wing] MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) said that the Americans were “creating a situation wherein failure in Annapolis may lead to disaster. It would have been possible for bilateral talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to continue. If after seven years of no negotiations at all, this summit fails – it could truly bring about catastrophe.
Failure, Beilin said, would also spell out the end of Abbas’ rule and “give an unbelievable boost to Hamas’ strength.”
Of course, Beilin’s idea of ‘success’ would be for Israel to give up the store to the Palestinians. But I think that even he realizes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is presently too weak to make any kind of agreement that would stick. Beilin would prefer to continue ‘bolstering’ Abbas until he is strong enough to control Hamas (as if any amount of bolstering could bring this about).
On the other hand, Likud MP Yuval Steinitz is more worried that the conference will ‘succeed’, opening the way to the establishment of a terrorist state on the West Bank as well as Gaza:
He warned against “signing an agreement with Abbas on Judea and Samaria while ignoring everything that has happened in Gaza over the last two years – we gave up everything and got an Iranian-backed Palestinian army in return.”
Steinitz accused the US of “playing with fire when it comes to Jerusalem. It’s difficult enough as it is to control the city, there are constant attempts to turn the Temple Mount into ground zero for all religious wars. Israeli control over East Jerusalem is the only thing preventing a bloodbath and religious war that could ignite the entire Muslim world.
“If Annapolis fails it would be bad. If Annapolis succeeds we fear that once against Israel will give up everything and receive nothing in return.” — YNet [my emphasis]
Meanwhile, Condoleeza Rice is forging ahead, having met with the Egyptian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister today and apparently receiving grudging support.
It’s hard to see what can come out of this. Israel is unhappy (although PM Olmert puts on an appearance so as not to be called “anti-peace”), and wants only an agreement on ‘principles’. The Palestinian Authority (Abbas faction) has demanded that it include agreements on substantive issues like borders, refugees, and Jerusalem that are so far quite distant from anything Israel could possibly accept. And nobody thinks that Abbas can control even his own faction, so any committments he makes will be worth little.
One bright spot is that Hamas, Iran and Syria have all denounced the idea of a conference. So there must be something good in it.
My own gut feeling is that with the price of oil reaching $88/bbl. today, elements in the US government are pushing to finally fulfill the promises made by Henry Kissinger in the 1970’s that we would reverse the territorial results of the 1967 war.