Thanks to Israel Palestine Forum member, Bridgebuilder who pointed me to one of the clearest and most persuasive analyses of what needs to happen at Annapolis for it to succeed. Making the Inevitable Happen is written by Bernard Avishai, a noted Israeli historian of Zionism and Sami Bahour, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur.
Here is how their column begins:
Anybody who knows anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows that the leaders expected at a summit meeting in Annapolis, Md., later this month, won’t devise a deal. That’s because the outlines of the deal have already been devised, in bits and pieces, through the Clinton parameters; the Taba summit; the Arab League proposal; international law, including myriad U.N. resolutions; and semiformal understandings, such as the Geneva Initiative.
So couples therapy is not what’s needed at this stage; it’s tough love. World powers, mainly the United States, should publicly endorse the deal, which is the only way to secure a place in the global economy that both Israel and Palestine need. What’s largely been settled is this: The foundation will be the boundaries from before the 1967 war, and Israel will compensate Palestine with land for agreed-upon border modifications; Jerusalem will be capital to both states, and its Old City will be open, free of checkpoints and restricted areas; international forces will help keep the peace, especially where jurisdictions are shared; the bulk of Palestinian refugees will exercise their right of return by settling in the new state of Palestine and accepting financial compensation, though a certain number will be allowed to return to Israel proper; and, finally, all Arab states simultaneously will recognize Israel. To be sure, there are contentious details to be hammered out, including how and when to remove Israeli settlers and repatriate Palestinian refugees. But generally speaking, that’s the deal, and who hasn’t heard it?
Which brings us to the most plausible argument against success at Annapolis. Olmert and Abbas will fail, pundits say, because they face radically aggressive domestic opposition — Scripture-hawk settlers on one side, Hamas on the other. Each leader cannot put his fragile “national unity” at risk for the sake of a peace deal that depends on the other weak leader. But this is precisely where the U.S. comes in. To trump the hard- liners, each has to show that he is moved by bigger forces, economic and geopolitical. The most immediate force is American interests and policy.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice apparently grasps the regional dynamic. She has stated repeatedly that failure will yield unprecedented new threats. But by not publicly adopting the inevitable deal, she has not added the one threat that Olmert and Abbas actually can use. She has not emphasized to their supporters — and their opponents — that U.S. security interests are in play, which they are; that Washington’s full weight is behind Annapolis; and that Americans know the logic of an agreement by now.
If Rice takes a firm public stand in demanding a final settlement, she strengthens Olmert and Abbas, who can point to the danger of defying the U.S. But if she merely offers mediation services, the summit may well fail. And failure means the United States’ standing in the region — so diminished after its debacle in Iraq — just got worse.
Tough love is one quality few American presidents seem able or willing to display towards the parties in this conflict. But it is perhaps the most critical element that they could bring to bear. Why? AIPAC is one good reason. It doesn’t want any Administration to muss a single hair on the head of any Israeli prime minister. Condi has been willing to buck AIPAC before. Let’s see if she’s willing to do so now.
I doubt anyone in the Bush Administration will pay much attention to Avishai and Bahour’s column, but they should.