Why does the US want Annapolis?

Everyone knows (or should know) that the chance that the coming Annapolis conference will reduce tensions between Israel and the Palestinians is small to zero.

Many observers are worried that either nothing will come out of it, which will seriously damage the Abbas/Fayyad faction vis-a-vis Hamas, or conversely that an agreement will be reached, Israel will make massive concessions impacting her security, and Palestinian terrorism against an emasculated Israel will become an existential threat.

A good outcome — in which an agreement is reached that results in a peaceful Palestinian State alongside Israel — is the least likely possibility, especially with Hamas waiting in the wings.

So, why is the US pushing so hard? Here’s one attempt to answer this question:

This was one of the questions experts who addressed the Saban Forum in Jerusalem this week attempted to answer.

One theme that emerged was the threat posed by the extremist Iran-Hizbullah-Hamas axis, not only to Israel and the moderate Palestinian leadership, but to the Sunni Arab states as well.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that without progress toward Palestinian statehood, a generation of Palestinians would lose hope and the moderate center might collapse.

Quartet envoy Tony Blair noted that Islamic extremists use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to ensnare moderates.

In the past the leaders of Arab states, despite public comments to the contrary, used the Palestinian issue to divert their own populations from more pressing issues.

Today, the Arab leaders realize that perpetuating the conflict will only play into the hands of the extremists, and thereby undermine their own legitimacy.

Thus, the moon and the sun are aligned. The interests of Israel, the moderate Palestinian leaders, nearly the entire Arab world and, indeed, the international community as a whole are one and the same – to end the festering sore of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as possible. — Mark Weiss, Jerusalem Post

Sorry, I’m not buying it.

While it is certainly true that the leadership of the Sunni Arab world fed — and continues to feed — the beast of Israel hatred amongst its population to divert attention from the difficulties faced in everyday life under their oppressive dictatorships, they have not suddenly decided that the Iranian threat will best be met by becoming Zionists.

Exactly how would a deal between Israel and the Abbas faction affect Iran? Certainly the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah and Hamas would redouble their hostility, and indeed, one can argue that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank would improve Hamas’ strategic position enormously. This is to Iran’s advantage. A weak Israel would also be less able to prevent a Hezbollah (i.e., Iranian/Syrian) takeover of Lebanon.

The ‘festering sore’ theory of the ‘realists’ is nonsense. As I’ve argued before, the geopolitical weight of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is negligible; its primary importance is as a psychological tool for such as Assad, who needs an external threat to justify his antipathy to reform at home. If they wanted to stop demonizing Israel, they could. But they haven’t. They could offer actual recognition of the Jewish state in return for territory. But they won’t.

The position of Saudi Arabia, for example, is that Israel could get some kind of ‘normal relations’ if she would allow the results of the 1967 war to be entirely reversed and absorb millions of descendants of the Arab refugees of 1948. Of course, if this were to happen it wouldn’t be a Jewish state any more.

Where are the interests of the US here? Do we think that an Israeli/Palestinian agreement will make Iran less likely to develop nuclear weapons?

No, I’m afraid the actual explanation lies on the dark side.

I believe that the Saudis are really the major players here. As far as they are concerned, the moon and the sun are aligned insofar as both the US, stuck in Iraq and massively in debt, and Israel, unable to beat Hezbollah, are weaker than they have been for years. Just as the early 1990’s, when both the Palestinian terrorists and the forces of Arab rejectionism were weak, was a positive opportunity (unfortunately sabotaged by Yasser Arafat) , the present time is an opportunity to tip the balance against Israel. By doing so, the Saudis intend to regain the mantle of leadership in the struggle against Zionism.

The US State Department has long felt that its relationship with the its Arab ‘allies’ — especially oil-producing ones — is far more important than that with Israel, and it had promised them as far back as the 1970’s that it will work to push Israel back to pre-1967 lines. Now the Saudis are asking us to meet our commitments.

As the price of oil edges ever closer to $100/bbl., we are moving to appease the single nation on earth with the greatest leverage over that number.

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