In June 2006 I wrote a piece here entitled “Is This Anything?” It opened with a reference to a shtick on Late Night with David Letterman, in which the curtain rises and a person or two perform an act or display something and then the curtain descends a few moments later. The host, Mr. Letterman, and his musical director, Maestro Paul Shafer, then engage in light banter in order to decide if what they just witnessed was “anything.” The choice is either “something” or “nothing.” Because these days the late night fare is in re-run mode, I figured, hey, what the heck I, too, will recycle this opening to discuss the upcoming re-run of American peace efforts in the Middle East. I am talking about the Annapolis summit that begins on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, in order to forge yet again a lasting peace between the Israeli state and the Arab world. Is this anything?
To answer the question of the summit being anything, one must refer to another popular shtick on Letterman, in which he and his musical director wager to see if a certain article would float or sink as a pair of heavenly-clad maiden drop the object into a tank of water. Because Annapolis, Maryland, is a naval-maritime port, I guess this “floating” thing is a good metaphor by which to gauge the success and failure of the Annapolis summit. Will it float?
No, it will not float. The summit is not about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It is about the Bush Administration wanting to show the Chinese and Russians and Iranians that it can still command other governments to a round table.
The summit will sink because Israel and Palestinians cannot have peace. If they were capable of or desirous of peace, then they would have consummated something a long time ago, just like Jordan and Egypt did with Israel. This summit is designed to achieve nothing and it will not achieve a thing other than to let the participants say, “we tried.” Nothing ventured, nothing lost.
Like all the others before it, this summit will sink because Israel has no intention of giving up the settlements and withdraw to its pre-June 1967 borders. Israel is not willing to get out of the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights without precondition. Israel wants the Palestinians to disarm each other before Israel will do its part – that would not happen because no Palestinian trusts Israel to then follow through with its part of the deal. And Israel does not want to allow Palestinians who got kicked out or left Israel to return to Israel because Israel would like to be a purely Jewish state.
This summit will fail also because not all the “adversaries” are invited. If this is about Israeli survival, then by Israel’s own admission Palestinians are not the only threat to reckon with – there is also Hamas, Hezbollah (in Lebanon and elsewhere), the Sunni street, and the Iranian government, to name a few. Exactly what will the summit do in order to bring these folks to the side of the peace process? Not having invited them is tantamount to ignoring them. Ignoring them will not make them go away, nor diminish their grievances, some of which in a just world would be deemed as legitimate. They will be further marginalized, cornered, spurned and therefore all the more militant and dangerous.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned the summit is about them getting their state. This has been the dream of every Palestinian leadership – which is, the Palestinian statehood come about in his time in office. That motivated Arafat and his successors in Fatah and now also in Hamas. But Israel will not allow a Palestinian state to emerge if it means that Israel as a Jewish sate would have to transform or vanish.
There is another way to promote statehood for Palestinians. Let us say Gaza declares its independence as state under the current Hamas government. A smattering of countries would recognize it and it would apply for membership to the United Nations. That membership, if granted, will bring Gaza into the promise of the UN Charter that no member state should attack another member state, which would also mean no attacks against Israel, or vice versa. Thereafter will come about, by negotiations or violence, the gradual accretion of territories from the West Bank onto the Republic of Gaza. Nothing precludes that a similar scenario not unfold in the creation of the Palestinian state on the West Bank and gradually the two “states” merging into one union. But all this depends on local initiative, not international horse-trade.
Naturally, one cannot judge the value of the summit by its floating because shit too floats. Nor can one judge its value by its sinking because diamonds sink, don’t they? The only measure of success of this gathering would be if Saudi Arabia comes to recognize Israel. The Saudi’s have had a peace plan for some time now, by which the state of Israel will cough up all the land it seized in June of 1967, the same demand as in UN Resolution 242. If that happens all else will follow eventually. If that does not happen, then kiss the summit goodbye just like all the others. If the UN could not bring peace to Israel what should give anyone the hope or expectation that the Annapolis frat party will?
At best, the Annapolis summit will be George W. Bush’s farewell tour, without him going on the road — a lazy man’s way to get off an international scene that he neither embraced nor engaged. As for the participants who are American client, “money talks.” As for the non-client participants, politesse oblige!
For the foregoing reasons, the Annapolis summit is “nothing” and therefore it will not float.