A never-ending series of summits, conferences and accords have taken place over the past several decades, with few positive outcomes.
Starring Israel and Palestine as the major players, we've had the following:
Madrid Peace Conference (1991) under the aegis of the Bush Sr. Administration and others
Oslo Accords (1993) Clinton and others
Hebron Agreement (1997) under the guidance of U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher
Wye River Conference (1998) Clinton
Camp David Summit (2000) Clinton
Sharm el-Sheik (2000) Hosted by Egypt's Mubarak , with Clinton in tow
Taba Summit (2001) based on the Clinton plan
Beirut Summit (2002) Arab League
Road Map For Peace (2002) U.S., E.U. U.N. and Russia established a "Road Map" for peace.
Red Sea Summit (2003) Bush Jr's attempt to implement his "Road Map"
Sharm el-Sheikh (2005) Hosted by Egypt's Mubarak and Jordan's Abdullah II
Aside from indirectly leading to peace between Israel and a few of its Arab neighbours - Egypt and Jordan - no significant accomplishments have ever resulted from the main focus of these talks: the Pal/Israeli conflict. There are other independent projects working towards establishing peace in that region, but obviously none have had much impact, either.
So, we jump ahead to November 2007 and add yet another attempt to give peace a chance. This time, at the Annapolis Peace Summit, most of the members of the Arab League were present, save Hamas and Iran (for obvious reasons). Iraq, Kuwait and Libya were invited to attend, but chose not to send any delegates.
The results of the 1 day mini summit? Israel and Palestine have agreed to restart the peace process, and negotiations are set to begin on December 12th.
Sounds like a good start, but you have to wonder what, if anything, will it achieve? For peace among warring nations to truly work, you need much more than the express desire of the leaders of those nations to work things out. You need the support of the people. They need to be equally committed- to be as fervently hungry for peace as their heads of state, if not more. Without their support you have nothing. And as far as I can tell, there's not much hope on that front. Both Palestinians and right wing Israelis have already taken to the streets in protest. Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas denounced the summit, calling Abbas a traitor and stated that the Palestinian people would never recognize any agreements resulting from the Annapolis talks. Benjamin Netanyahu (of Israel's Likud Party) has also denounced the summit as being
"a fantasy, not a vision."He believes that it will be nothing more than giving in to one-sided concessions, and that Olmert's government is
"making peace with a virtual partner, in a virtual reality." " We have a partner for words, but not for deeds, certainly not for fighting terrorism, and, to my regret, no partner for a real peace."
There are also many others, including Christian evangelicals, who believe this to be a very dangerous move. Michael D. Evans in an article on charismamag.org calls the conference
"..not a peace conference, but an “appeasement conference” to coalition-build Arab nations in preparation for an attack on Iran."
He goes on to say that
"The Islamofascists who deny Israel's right to exist while they send suicide bombers around the world to murder anyone else who disagrees with them don't consider Annapolis as mere theater. They attend conferences such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in October 2003, where Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a comment typical throughout the Muslim world:Evans is not alone. There are others who also believe the summit was/is a way of unifying Arab Nations against Iran and its allies in an effort to isolate Ahmadinejad as he continues to grandstand.
“If we are to recover our dignity and that of Islam, our religion, it is we who must decide, it is we who must act … We [Muslims] are actually very strong: 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.”
In fact, Ahmadinejad is already spewing his hate-filled, 'Israel will die' rhetoric by proclaiming Annapolis a failure and that
"It is impossible that the Zionist regime will survive. Collapse is in the nature of this regime because it has been created on aggression, lying, oppression and crime."Though there is blanket global support for re-establishing peace talks, I'm not sure there are many who feel very positive about the actual prospects of peace, including me. According to polls, although approximately 70% of both Israelis and Palestinians actually support the summit, a large percentage of those polled hold no hope for peace.
And can one even trust the Palestinians and the Arab world, at large, to stick to their side of the deal? Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has a Palestinian Authority TV informational video clip on their website which aired a day after the summit. It shows a map of Israel sans Israel (see photo above). The P.A. TV is run by Abbas' Fatah, by the way.
Even if Olmert and Abbas, by some miracle, were able to cobble together a mutually agreeable peace deal, they would still have to get Hamas and Likud (and others) on board. And that's not very likely. Hamas, like Ahmadinejad, is committed to the destruction of Israel, and I would venture to say that most of the Arab world would probably not shed many tears if this were to occur. But say, by some other miracle, they did all come together, both factions would still have to persuade their people to comply. It would be easier for the Israelis to end the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank (major Palestinian concern), but reigning in the Palestinian militants (one of Israels major concerns) seems an impossibility. They're so enmeshed in a culture of violence and hate, that it would take generations to extricate themselves from that mindset. And the Israelis are unwilling, understandably so, to make too many concessions that could result in the eventual death of Israel as we know it.
George W. Bush said it best in a speech at the conference:
"The battle is underway for the future of the Middle East, and we must not cede victory to extremists. With their violent actions and contempt for human life, the extremists are seeking to impose a dark vision on the people. If this vision prevails, the future of the region will be endless terror, endless war and endless suffering."