conference is a joke. Though not in the least funny. ANNAPOLIS
Like quite a lot of political initiatives, this one too, according to all the indications, started more or less by accident. George Bush was due to make a speech. He was looking for a theme that would give it some substance. Something that would divert attention away from his fiascos in
Somehow, the idea of a "meeting" of leaders to promote the Israeli-Palestinian "process" came up. An international meeting is always nice – it looks good on television, it provides plenty of photo-opportunities, it radiates optimism. We meet, ergo we exist.
So Bush voiced the idea: a "meeting" for the promotion of peace between
Without any preceding strategic planning, any careful preparations, anything much at all.
That’s why Bush did not go into any details: no clear aim, no agenda, no location, no date, no list of invitees. Just an ethereal meeting. This fact by itself testifies to the lack of seriousness of the entire enterprise.
This may shock people who have never seen close up how politics are actually conducted. It is hard to accept the intolerable lightness with which decisions are often made, the irresponsibility of leaders and the arbitrary way important processes are set in motion.
FROM THE MOMENT this idea was launched, it could not be called back. The President has spoken, the initiative starts on its way. As the saying goes: One fool throws a stone into the water, a dozen wise men cannot retrieve it.
Once the "meeting" had been announced, it became an important enterprise. The experts of all parties started to work frantically on the undefined event, each trying to steer it in the direction which would benefit them the most.
* Bush and Condoleezza Rice want an impressive event, to prove that the
* Ehud Olmert urgently needs a resounding political achievement in order to blur the memory of his dismal failure in the Second Lebanon War and to extricate himself from the dozen or so criminal investigations for corruption that are pursuing him. His ambition knows no bounds: he wants to be photographed shaking the hand of the King of Saudi Arabia. A feat no Israeli prime minister before him has achieved.
* Mahmoud Abbas wants to show Hamas and the rebellious factions in his own Fatah movement that he can succeed where the great Yasser Arafat failed - to be accepted among the world’s leaders as an equal partner.
This could, therefore, become a great, almost historic conference, if …
IF ALL these hopes were something more than pipedreams. None of them has any substance. For one simple reason: no one of the three partners has any capital at his disposal.
* Bush is bankrupt. In order to succeed at
But Bush is quite unable to exert the slightest pressure on
* Olmert is in an even weaker position. His coalition still survives only because there is no alternative in the present Knesset. It includes elements that in any other country would be called fascist (For historical reasons, Israelis don’t like to use this term). He is prevented by his partners from making any compromise, however tiny – even if he wanted to reach an agreement.
This week, the Knesset adopted a bill that requires a two-thirds majority for any change of the borders of Greater Jerusalem. This means that Olmert cannot even give up one of the outlying Palestinian villages that were annexed to
* Mahmoud Abbas cannot move away from the conditions laid down by Yasser Arafat (the 3rd anniversary of whose death was commemorated this week). If he strays from the straight and narrow, he will fall. He has already lost the Gaza Strip, and can lose the
The three poker players are going to sit down together, pretending to start the game, while none of them has a cent to put on the table.
THE MAJESTIC mountain seems to be getting smaller and smaller by the minute. It’s against the laws of nature: the closer we get to it, the smaller it seems. What looked to many like a veritable
First the participants were to deal with the "core issues". Then it was announced that a weighty declaration of intentions was to be adopted. Then a mere collection of empty phrases was proposed. Now even that is in doubt.
Not one of the three leaders is still dreaming of an achievement. All they hope for now is to minimize the damage – but how to get out of a situation like this?
As usual, our side is the most creative at this task. After all, we are experts in building roadblocks, walls and fences. This week, an obstacle larger then the
Ehud Olmert demanded that, before any negotiations, the Palestinians "recognize
Let’s examine this condition for a moment:
The Palestinians are not required to recognize the state of
No, the government of
The demand is ridiculous per se. But this can easily be shown by analysis ad absurdum.
What is a "Jewish state"? That has never been spelled out. Is it a state with a majority of Jewish citizens? Is it "the state of the Jewish people" – meaning the Jews from Brooklyn,
These questions have not been decided. Are the Palestinians required to recognize something that is the subject of debate in
According to the official doctrine,
The sting is, of course, that this formula is quite unacceptable to Palestinians because it would hurt the million and a half Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. The definition "Jewish state" turns them automatically into – at best – second class citizens. If Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues were to accede to this demand, they would be sticking a knife in the backs of their own relatives.
Moreover, according to the deceased Road Map, which all parties pretend to accept, Israel must dismantle all settlements set up after March, 2000, and freeze all the others. Olmert is quite unable to do that. At the same time, Mahmoud Abbas must destroy the "terror infrastructure". Abbas can’t do that either – as long as there is no independent Palestinian state with an elected government.
I imagine Bush tossing and turning in his bed at night, cursing the speechwriter who put this miserable sentence into his mouth. On their way to heaven, his curses must be mingling with those of Olmert and Abbas.
WHEN THE leaders of the Jewish community in
And then all of them will head back to their respective homes, heaving a heartfelt sigh of relief.