After years of marked absence, the Bush administration has finally decided to upgrade its involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The announcement of a Middle East peace conference in
has raised red flags for anyone who has learned from past experience how unbalanced and insincere peace efforts actually can lead to further violence. And it requires little cynicism to ponder how genuine these current efforts are. Annapolis, Maryland
It has been suggested that President Bush — whose actions have thus defined his legacy as that of a war president — wishes to leave on a more positive note. We heard the same argument in mid 2000 when President Bill Clinton facilitated ill-prepared talks, the failure of which sparked tension and violence, which were of course blamed solely on Palestinians.
Others argue that the conference is motivated not by a desire for lasting peace, but by the wish to further isolate Hamas – the party that was democratically elected by a decisive majority in the
Regardless of the fact that the transparency of the elections was praised by international monitors such as Jimmy Carter, the democratically elected winner was completely shunned by the
As the division between Fatah and Hamas grew, the Bush administration began hinting at the possibility of hosting a peace conference. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who had previously insisted on the ‘unilateral’ paradigm – predicated on the assumption that
In the build-up to the conference, Olmert and Abbas have been holding regular meetings. Statements and declarations made by both leaders and their advisors indicate that
Olmert, with little popularity amongst the Israelis and a weakening mandate in the country’s parliament, is repeatedly attempting to water down expectations. He even claims to be unsure as to whether the conference will take place at all, reportedly telling journalists on Thursday, October 25, "If all goes well, hopefully, we will meet in
This overt lowering of expectations suggests that the Bush administration knows well that the conference will not deliver peace; neither Abbas nor Olmert seem equipped for such a task. Moreover, the administration has displayed virtually no signs of being an honest broker; its unreserved and unconditional backing of
What is truly dangerous is the fact that a peace conference which delivers nothing but empty promises is likely to actually precipitate violence. Palestinians, humiliated and besieged, might exhibit their anger in a myriad of ways, for which they will only receive further condemnation.
The Palestinian delegation needs to represent all Palestinians and must carry a clear mandate to negotiate.
Without these conditions, the Maryland conference, and any other, will most likely fail, a failure that could tragically drag the entire region deeper into the dark abyss of military occupation, state violence and, indeed, terrorism.
-Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press,