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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Annapolis crumbling?

Those sounds you heard on Israel Radio's 5:00 news might have been Annapolis crumbling. You may recall that the original plan was to have an agreement in advance of the Annapolis conference mugging, with the 'conference' serving as a show to promote the agreement. That deteriorated into a 'joint declaration.' Today, Israeli negotiators said that the 'Palestinians' had backtracked on all agreements they had made with Israel, and that even a joint declaration is not going to happen.
According to the sources, the Palestinians have "returned to square one, to [a point that] preceded the beginning of the negotiations."

The possibility that each side would present a separate statement was being weighed, officials said, claiming that the conference was only meant to be a venue for launching negotiations in the presence of representatives from dozens of countries.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were slated to reconvene Sunday, and on Monday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Senior government officials said Saturday night that negotiations themselves would not take place at Annapolis, but rather that the negotiating process would begin "immediately" afterward. No date or venue was given for these negotiations, although they are expected to be carried out by the same teams which have been negotiating the statement to be unveiled at Annapolis.

Senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office declined to respond to various Palestinian reports that "failure" at Annapolis would lead to Abbas's resignation or could possibly spark another round of terrorist violence.

"The meeting at Annapolis is the beginning of a process," one official said. "It is the first time in seven years that the sides are openly having a dialogue that we hope will lead to a final settlement of some sort. Annapolis is the stepping-off point, and in that sense it is an important landmark, although the event itself is essentially a show of international support for the bilateral track."
Some people on both sides are questioning whether the 'conference' should take place at all. I already noted this morning that the 'Palestinians' and their allies would rather that the 'conference' not take place:
The Egyptians have already advised finding a suitable pretext to postpone the parley indefinitely. Meanwhile, it is becoming clear to all parties to the negotiations that there is no chance of agreement on a declaration that will herald even a hint of a breakthrough. If Abu Mazen compromises, he will be assailed by both Hamas and much of Fatah. If a vague statement is issued, everyone will say yet again that he has nothing to offer to his people.

The Palestinians are fuming at Rice for having trapped them in a corner and have begun to try and get out of it by renewing the talk about a "third step" in the Oslo process that was never implemented. What this means is an attempt to get more territory on the West Bank from Israel without having to reach any substantive agreement.
The Israelis would also like to find a way out:
Unless there is a sudden reversal, the conference -- if it takes place at all -- is likely to turn out to be one of three things: an occasion for multinational Israel-bashing that attempts to reverse its birth, an occasion for diplomats to mouth meaningless truisms, or a trigger for the next round of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians or even the wider Islamic world. Or all three.


Israel, for its part, also appears in search of a low-cost way out. PM Ehud Olmert has said that he expects it to be a one-day ceremonial affair, with each party giving a speech and then going home, without negotiations or agreements. Of late, Olmert and many of the ministers of his government have been indicating that without Palestinian recognition of Israel as the State of the Jewish People, there will be no recognition of a Palestinian State."

Israeli military intelligence has weighed in by saying that the chances for a positive outcome in Annapolis are "virtually nil." Defense officials are urging the government not to make any concessions -- such as prisoner releases -- to Abbas before the planned conference, to conditions any gestures on Palestinian cooperation and good behavior at the summit. Nevertheless, the Olmert cabinet is expected to hold on Monday an expected vote on the additional release of 400 Palestinian prisoners. The Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, warns that if Israel makes no gestures, the territories could explode in violence even before the conference.

Some media have already conceded that disaster is inevitable. The UK's left-leaning Guardian writes today: "As the United States-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, approaches, the key question is what follows when it fails. Fiasco is looming, so what do the Palestinians do next?"

Shmuel Sandler, an Israeli analyst of the conflict, says that the political weakness of both Olmert and Abbas predetermines failure, because neither leader can carry out commitments not back by their citizens and anathema to political opponents: "From this point-of-view, the political weakness of Mahmoud Abbas and Olmert predefines the future fiasco of the Near East conference in Annapolis," he says.
With the blame for the 'conference's failure likely to fall on Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and to a lesser extent on President Bush, the US has been pushing Israel to make more 'goodwill gestures' to the 'Palestinians' in advance of the 'conference.' But with each 'concession' agreed to by Israel, the 'Palestinians' demand another one.

There are two areas in which the US has been pushing Israel for 'concessions' - 'prisoner' releases and a 'settlement' freeze. On the 'prisoner releases,' Olmert told the US on Friday that the most Israel can do is to release 450 'prisoners.' Anything beyond that number would require Israel to change the definition of the term 'blood on their hands' to allow Olmert to say that he is only releasing 'prisoners' who do not have 'blood on their hands.' Olmert, the consummate politician, knows that if he makes that change now, he won't have a coalition by the time he gets on the plane to go to Annapolis. The 'Palestinians' - after Olmert voluntarily said he would release 300-400 'prisoners' - asked for the release of 2000. They have to know that Olmert cannot do that and that if he did it, the terror victims' groups would appeal to the Supreme Court and tie up the release for weeks.

As to the 'settlement' freeze, Israel had planned to announce with much fanfare that it was freezing 'settlement' expansion. In fact, the Defense Ministry has not given out any building permits in six months. But once again, the 'Palestinians' preempted the concession by asking for more. The 'Palestinians' want to halt all construction - including construction in progress for which permits were issued, in some cases up to ten years ago! Ultimately, Olmert might be able to do that, but it would require paying compensation and would be subject to Supreme Court appeals that would drag on for months.

It looks to me like the 'Palestinians' have once again not missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. They have put the 'conference' in a position where it will inevitably fail. Why? Because - as most of the world refuses to understand - the 'Palestinians' don't want a 'settlement.' They're not ready to deal with schools and roads and sewers and water supply and sanitation. They want to have a perpetual 'revolution.' If there's an agreement with Israel, the 'revolution' would be over. That's why the 'Palestinians' keep retracting their agreements. They can't live beside a Jewish state in this region.

Will anybody notice or care?


At 10:34 PM, Blogger Pete Chown said...

First of all, you show that both sides are trying to get out of substantive negotiations. That seems quite likely: a settlement would involve painful concessions, and it may be easier for the leaders of both Israel and Palestine to take that route. (They are not, after all, the ones suffering.)

I'm not sure, though, why you blame the Palestinians exclusively in your last paragraph. Isn't the point that there are intransigent people on both sides?

At 11:18 PM, Blogger bikermailman said...

Pete: The Palistinians are blamed exclusively here because they've NEVER wanted a settlement. They've been offered the farm over and over, and rejected it, going all the way back to 1948. The Arabs have never accepted the idea of a Jewish state existing anywhere in their midst, and will not be happy until it is gone. Period. With Oslo, Israel came to the table offering them some 97% of everything they had been asking all along. Came to the table offering it. Put that in the perspective of negotiations. If you're at the table, and your opposition walks up, and without a word, offers you practically everything you've been demanding, before any negotiations start...don't you grab it? It was rejected out of hand.

At 1:23 AM, Blogger tsionguy said...

Pete: It's very easy to denegrate both sides as intransigent, but answer this question: If the Jews currently living in Judea and Samaria were to remain in a future Palestinian state, would the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Europeans, the UN, and you, allow them to live and pray in peace? If you can answer "yes" to all of these conditions, then we can start negotiating. On the other hand, if you, like so many others, believe that the quarter million Jews of Judea and Samaria must leave in order to have peace, than I must say that you are a racist, and we can not discuss this any further. Any negotiation must include reciprocity and mutual respect. Showing disrespect to the Jews of Judea and Samaria only poisons the dialog.

At 6:38 AM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

If there's an agreement with Israel, the 'revolution' would be over. That's why the 'Palestinians' keep retracting their agreements. They can't live beside a Jewish state in this region.

I disagree Carl. The Palestinians are very good at making agreements with israel. They pocket the concessions Israel makes, do not do a thing to meet their end of the bargain, and then demand more concessions. Agreements - easy. Accountability - not so much.

At 12:15 AM, Blogger YMedad said...

http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2007/11/annapolis-conference-patch.html for the Annapolis Conference Patch

At 2:48 AM, Blogger Pete Chown said...


I've put a summary of the Camp David 2000 offer on my blog. It doesn't seem like "offering the Palestinians the farm" to me, what do you think?


The argument is that those people moved into the occupied West Bank in breach of the Geneva Convention, so should move out again. But speaking personally, I would have no problem with them becoming Palestinian citizens and living as Jews in the new state. I can of course only speak for myself and not the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Europeans, or the UN. :-)


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