Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Yesterday's summit in Annapolis was meant to restart a peace process. The most difficult element of this process will, as usual, be implementation, not negotiation. Mahmood Abbas's weaknesses are well-known, and I've blogged previously about Ehud Olmert's coalition situation. (Click on the Israel tag to find the most recent posts.)

The new elements in the Annapolis Declaration are the 2008 timetable and the American monitoring mechanism. Both show just how weak Abbas's negotiating position is in all this. The only way he can survive politically is to deliver concrete measures toward Palestinian statehood and economic prosperity. Both of these depend on Israeli goodwill; Olmert needs nothing from the Palestinians, and his best political move, to be cynical about it, might be to position himself as the peace candidate (a role Barak obviously doesn't want) but never actually concede enough to threaten his government.

Will an American government fault Israel for failing road map responsibilities in an election year? I doubt it, and if it does, the Democrats will be all over it. Hillary Clinton has already staked out a stance on Jerusalem to the right of Avigdor Lieberman's. The Palestinians would, at the very least, prefer joint monitoring by the entire Quartet, but instead they get the United States, and a timetable that ties the entire process to an election year.

If the timetable is extended, however, as these things often are, they will be dealing with a new president who won't have to face voters for years and would definitely want to start with a landmark foreign policy success much like Bill Clinton lucked into getting to host the signing of the Oslo Accords.

I don't know how all this will play out, of course, but for the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, I hope it ends well. This is not a trite sentiment. Time is quickly running out for the two-state solution. Israeli nationalists have played their cards very smartly and persistently, leading to facts on the ground that cannot be easily undone. If Israel can no longer consider a viable Palestinian state, then either Israel will cease to exist, or the Palestinians will. The former most likely happens via a one-state solution which Israelis still see as poisonous; while the latter would most likely happen slowly, as Israelis will not tolerate open ethnic cleansing carries out in their name. Either way, I predict two more generations of bloodshed.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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