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Morris J. Amitay

 

Column for December 3, 2007

  

Annapolis Revisited

 

 

Just about everybody with an opinion – informed or not – has now had a chance to weigh in on the Annapolis event, so I will add my own two cents worth.  At least, unlike many of the other commentators, I’ve visited Annapolis many times, and even lectured to a large class of midshipmen at the Naval Academy on “foreign policy and the political process” some time ago.  (I have a plaque on my office wall to attest to this!)

 

But it doesn’t take a Middle East expert (without an agenda) to reach the conclusion that this hastily arranged gathering will almost certainly turn out to have been a waste of time.  There’s an appropriate word in Hebrew for it – “shtu’yot” which roughly translates as nonsense or stupidity.

 

A few examples bear this conclusion out.  One of the more recent was the arrest yesterday of two of the three killers of a 29 year-old father of two as he traveled in his car on the eve of the Annapolis conference.  All three were Palestinian Authority policemen and members of its security forces.  Terrorist acts by Palestinian “lawmen” have certainly not been isolated incidents.  What is particularly galling here was the justification of the murder by a Fatah official in the Ministry of Detainee affairs who claimed that this act constituted “resistance to occupation”, as opposed to resistance against the ongoing “peace negotiations”.

 

Another indication of the Palestinians’ peaceful intent was the release of two other members of their security services who plotted to assassinate Olmert last month when he visited Jericho.  And finally, what does the refusal of top Palestinian Authority leadership to state that they recognize Israel as a Jewish State signify?  Shouldn’t all this and the continued incitement indicate to Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni loud and clear that something very basic is wrong with the resurrected “peace process”?  As a Jewish American I often repeat the mantra that Jews living here have no right to tell their Israeli friends how to ensure their own security.  But beyond the usual rationale for doing so, that it is in America’s interest in the region to have a secure Israel, there is also another disquieting angle emerging.  Given the hostility displayed by the Arab states at Annapolis, the statements of the Palestinian leadership with regard to Jerusalem, the reiteration of the demand for a “right of return,” and the ongoing daily rocketing of Israeli civilian targets – it is fair to ask whether the current Israeli leadership is placing its own political survival above the nation’s future security.  Although there is a genuine desire for peace by many Israeli citizens who are tired of the conflict, polls after Annapolis showed most Israelis are pessimistic about the final outcome, thereby demonstrating better judgment than that of the current leadership.

 

Admittedly, this is a harsh assessment of the Government’s motives.  Over the years I have developed close ties with Israelis on both the left and right of the political spectrum.  I do not doubt the sincerity of my dovish friends in their desire to live in peace with their Palestinian neighbors.  But I am reminded of Pogo, the comic character, who declared, “how can we lose, when we are so sincere?”

 

The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister’s sincerity is not the real issue here.  What is more important is the messages they sent in Annapolis to their adversaries.  Olmert claimed Annapolis to be “a breakthrough”, citing reports that the Saudi Foreign Minister applauded his speech.  (An enterprising and usually reliable Israeli reporter who witnessed the Saudi’s applause noted that not only was his applause tepid, as widely reported, but that his two hands never actually met.)  And Tzipi Livni’s plaintive and public lament that none of the Arabs would talk to her should have been both beneath her, and her nation’s dignity.  Could anyone imagine former Prime Minister Begin, the epitome of a proud Jew, complaining in such a manner? 

 

One can readily sympathize with Israeli parents who themselves have served in the IDF and too often lost loved ones, and now want to see an end to the conflict.  But this should not mean that Israelis should place their trust in anyone on the Palestinian side who wears a tie, doesn’t foam at the mouth, and hasn’t personally murdered Jews.  Giving Mahmoud Abbas the benefit of the doubt, is it logical to believe that he can make any important concessions to Israel when the vast majority of the Palestinian people have been nurtured on hatred of Israel and of Jews?  With Hamas in control of Gaza, and with no control over his own Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, it is next to impossible to believe that Abbas can retreat from the Palestinians’ maximalist positions.  Granting him all the will in the world – he is simply unable to meet Israel’s legitimate and minimal demands.   

 

The question then is why should Israel continue with this farce?  The answer is that Uncle Sam wants it to, and at the same time our Israeli friends are reluctant to act decisively against their enemies, starting in Gaza.  Our State Department is in a full peace-process mode, having learned nothing from past failed efforts, and as usual, will be pressuring Israel for concessions to demonstrate “progress”, while an indifferent President has an awful lot of other problems on his mind.  Spurred on by a Secretary of State embarked on a quixotic pursuit, the farce will have to play itself out.  In the meantime, however, much damage will be done to the US-Israel relationship before this ill-advised effort is relegated to its most appropriate destination – the dustbin of history.  We can only watch and ask ourselves – when will they ever learn?  Then, as loyal friends of the Jewish State – we will have to pick up the pieces.

 

Morrie Amitay, a Washington attorney, is a former Executive Director of AIPAC and founder of the pro-Israel Washington PAC (www.washingtonpac.com).