Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A good summation

Salon's Gary Kamiya:
Annapolis will fail to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians because it was not intended to succeed. It was a charade. And in the Middle East, charades don't just leave things the way they are -- they make them much worse. The tragedy is that Olmert seems to realize the urgency of cutting a two-state deal. But there is a giant gap between seeing the goal and achieving it, and only the United States can fill it. Olmert can take the politically explosive yet necessary steps only if the United States clearly states in advance what needs to be done and then forces both sides to do it. Bush completely failed to do that. He called for the conference almost in passing. He never set an agenda. He refused to outline what the U.S. vision of peace is. Going forward, the only thing he offered the two beleaguered leaders, Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was a promise to monitor the process -- which in these circumstances is like promising a dying man that if he calls you on your cellphone, you'll be sure to check the message.

The sad thing about this mess is that there's no mystery about what needs to happen. Both Israel and the Palestinians must give up some of their most cherished dreams. The 40-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands must end. East Jerusalem must become the capital of a contiguous Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Those will be bitter concessions for Israel, but the Palestinians must give up even more. They must accept a state that comprises only 22 percent of the historic Palestine. They probably must allow the largest settlements on the West Bank to become part of Israel. And most painfully of all, they must accept a compromise on Palestinian refugees that will resettle most of them outside their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

But neither Bush nor Condoleezza Rice have ever been interested in brokering a fair and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. After all, this is the president who announced at his first National Security Council meeting that he was going to let Ariel Sharon have a free hand to smash the Palestinians because "sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things." This is the Secretary of State who prevented the U.N. from imposing a cease-fire on Israel in the last weeks of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war and infamously defended the carnage as the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

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