Posted: November 27, 2007
The Annapolis conference has just about come and gone. Will it be remembered as the beginning of a breakthrough toward Israeli-Palestinian peace or will it be condemned as falsely raising expectations and leading to a resurgence of violence? Or will it simply be forgotten?
The answer lies in whether the Palestinians have undergone true change. Despite the complexities of Israeli politics, there is little doubt that Israel will support significant concessions on the core issues if they come to believe that the Palestinians - this time around - are serious about peace and reconciliation.
Israeli cynicism about this would be understandable. Let's remember that the Oslo Accords, the Camp David and Taba negotiations in 2000, the Road Map, and the Israeli disengagement from Gaza were all previous occasions where the Palestinians were given direct opportunities to show they were interested in living in peace with Israel. On each occasion, Palestinian unwillingness to take the necessary steps for peaceful coexistence undermined these efforts.
Why think the current effort will lead to a different result? Maybe because current Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are realistic moderates who genuinely seek reconciliation. Maybe because the Arab states, fearful of Iran and other Islamic extremists, know that they must be newly open to Israel, their true ally in the struggle against terrorists. Maybe because the international community understands that Palestinian accommodation is critical to achieve an agreement that can help the West in the struggle against the terror network.
These, however, are all maybes and probably long-shot maybes.
The process articulated by President Bush and by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders must be given a chance. If all parties recognize and act on the proposition that it can only work if there is true Palestinian change, then there is hope that Annapolis will be remembered as a milestone toward peace. If not, then the region will remain mired in the quicksand that has consumed it for decades.