Saturday, December 01, 2007

You Can't Get to Peace if You Can't Get it Right

Barry Rubin
I love Annapolis. It's a town that has maintained its charming historic district quite well, with a nice little harbor, interesting shops, and the beautiful campus of the U.S. Naval Academy. Then there’s the magnificent statehouse, best-known for George Washington’s famous farewell speech, when he gave up command of the American army at the end of the revolution rather than making himself dictator, got on his horse, and rode home to be a farmer.
Oh, and then there’s the Annapolis summit conference on the Middle East, an area where many regimes are based on army commanders who didn’t resign to ride home but who instead marched into the local equivalent of the statehouse and seized power.
Let’s see if we can glean some interesting points from the massive coverage of this event.
From Scott Wilson, Washington Post, November 24, 2007, Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal said, "If not for the Arab consensus we felt today, we would not have decided to go”

Whether this is just an inevitable excuse or a sincere statement it amounts to the same thing: the most radical factor, in this case Syria, has veto power over Arab politics. The old consensus mania remains an excuse for not doing anything. This is one more nail in the Peace Process II coffin.
Wilson then writes:

“With its vast oil wealth and authority over Islam's holiest sites, Saudi Arabia exercises great sway among Arabs, including the two largest Palestinian factions.”

But wait a minute. If Saudi Arabia can only come if the other Arab regimes give permission then how does it exercise great sway? And is there any evidence that the Saudis exercise sway over Fatah (to whom they don’t give money) or to Hamas (to which they do, not the government but powerful individuals close to it)?
If ignoring what the prince says covers up a serious problem with Arab politics—each one of which plays iceberg to Peace Process II’s Titanic—Wilson’s next paragraph ignores another. The Saudis will not use whatever sway they have. Why?
--It brings the danger of internal upheaval—increasing the number of bin Ladin supporters and terrorist attacks, too--since they have trained their people to equate Israel with the devil.
--It creates the potential for inter-Arab conflicts, which disrupts the previously mentioned consensus, a consensus in which the most radical have veto power.
--It could bring them into collision with an increasingly powerful Iran, which they fear.
--Why should they bother? Let the United States and the West do all the work and take all the blame for failure.
--And as long as they fail, the Saudis can mobilize support by bashing the West to cover up their own failings.
--The sufferings, real and alleged, of the Palestinians are a great demagogic tool.
--What if the peace process succeeded and the Saudis actually had to make peace and have normal relations with Israel. Shudder.
--The Saudis still hate Fatah because of Yasir Arafat’s dissing of them (American slang for “disrespect”) and siding with Iraq against them in 1990-1991.
One rarely sees any of these points mentioned in the mass media or academic presentations yet they are at the core of Middle East politics.
And how about Wilson’s revisionist formulation of the Saudi peace plan:

“Saudi Arabia is the chief proponent of a plan endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 that offers Israel broad recognition by Arabs in exchange for withdrawal from all territories seized in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem. The Arab initiative, which Israeli negotiators refused to include in drafts of the joint statement, also calls for a `just’ solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees who demand the right to return to homes inside Israel.”

Well that sounds quite reasonable but “broad recognition” is a bit vague. You give us everything we want and we admit that you exist? And how about that slick presentation of the Palestinian demand of a “right to return?” Notice how Wilson makes this sounds like a mass movement rather than a slogan developed by the PLO and regimes as a way to wipe out Israel. And all of the rejection of peace is put on Israel. No mention of the PLO and Syrian refusal of peace in 2000. No mention of the Palestinian Authority’s systematic breaking of its commitments.
In this context, it is interesting to counterpose something from Amy Teibel, AP, November 25, 2007:
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “said he was committed to doing everything possible to hammer out an agreement in the coming year.”
But will Abbas actually do anything? Will he break up planned terrorist attacks? Arrest those involved in terrorism? Stop the incitement in the Palestinian media, which he controls, to kill Israelis and which justifies terrorist attacks on them? Begin to educate for peace in the schools, mosques, and media? Fight corruption and the quick transfer of foreign aid into the pockets of his officials?
I doubt it. The mass media doesn’t even mention it.
Another myth the media nurtures is exemplified in Michael Matza, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 2007, appropriately entitled, “Pitfalls if Peace Talks Fail Again.”
Matza does not rise to the occasion but does come up with a new phrase, “After months of intense but fruitless talks about how to end their mulish conflict, the warring parties bring their dispute to the edge of the Chesapeake Bay…for a conference orchestrated by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”
Get it? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “mulish,” based on a stubborn blind stupidity by both sides. He continues:

“But in the Middle East, where blood is spilled routinely, the price of failure can be another round of deadly violence. To reach for peace is admirable. But it can quickly turn lethal if the groundwork isn't there and the effort fails, experts say.
“A flop could mean the extremist Palestinian faction Hamas expands its sphere of control from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank. It could weaken Palestinian moderates and energize another round of limited warfare if ordinary Palestinians, stirred by frustration, join the fighters because they see no political horizon that leads to a Palestinian state.”

This is precisely backwards. First, it should be noted how disgusting is the phrase that in the Middle East “blood is spilled routinely.” It is consistent with the “mulish” idea that all these people simply act irrationally. Bloodshed is terrible but it is not based on habit but on goals. It is the extremism of ends and of ideology that brings about the extremism of means.
The kind of thinking used by most Western reporters applies very well to Western society or politics but completely fails to comprehend how things work in the Middle East. No wonder this cannot explain the past, help in the present, or predict the future.
In this case, the model implies that people yearn for peace, compromise, and conciliation. When they don’t get it they use violence. In fact, this has nothing to do with reality. The problem is that peace, compromise, and conciliation are equated with heresy, treason, and surrender. The more these “good” outcomes appear possible, the higher the level of violence used to prevent them. Consider that Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip led to Hamas taking over; Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon strengthened Hamas; the 1990s’ peace process did not produce many Palestinian moderates; U.S. democracy promotion helped radical Islamists more than moderate democrats; and the invasion of Iraq did not bring peace and love among Iraqis.
This doesn’t mean that the Annapolis conference or trying to achieve peace is a bad thing. But it does mean that no one is ever going to resolve a conflict until they understand who is at fault for continuing it or why it persists.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (GLORIA) Center His latest books are The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East ). (Wiley

Apartheid, not peace

Caroline Glick
Nov. 30, 2007

This week the Bush Administration legitimized Arab anti-Semitism. AIn an effort to please the Saudis and their Arab brothers, the Bush administration agreed to physically separate the Jews from the Arabs at the Annapolis conference in a manner that aligns with the apartheid policies of the Arab world which prohibit Israelis from setting foot on Arab soil.

Evident everywhere, the discrimination against Israel received its starkest expression at the main assembly of the Annapolis conference on Tuesday. There, in accordance with Saudi demands, the Americans prohibited Israeli representatives from entering the hall through the same door as the Arabs.

At the meeting of foreign ministers on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called her Arab counterparts to task for their discriminatory treatment. "Why doesn't anyone want to shake my hand? Why doesn't anyone want to be seen speaking to me?" she asked pointedly.

Israel's humiliated foreign minister did not receive support from her American counterpart. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who spent her childhood years in the segregated American South, sided with the Arabs. Although polite enough to note that she doesn't support the slaughter of Israelis, she made no bones about the fact that her true sympathies lie with the racist Arabs.

As she put it, "I know what it is like to hear that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness."

Rice's remarks make clear that for the Secretary of State there is no difference between Israelis trying to defend themselves from a jihadist Palestinian society which supports the destruction of the Jewish state and bigoted white Southerners who oppressed African Americans because of the color of their skin. It is true that Israel has security concerns, but as far as Rice is concerned, the Palestinians are the innocent victims. They are the ones who are discriminated against and humiliated, not Livni, who was forced - by Rice - to enter the conference through the service entrance.

The Bush administration's tolerance for discrimination against Israel was not merely ceremonial. Diplomatically, the conference was equally prejudicial. At Annapolis, the US joined the Arabs in placing the lion's share of blame for the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians on Israel. But you wouldn't know that from listening to Olmert, who is working steadily to hide what happened there.

Olmert obfuscates the truth because his political stability rests in the hands of his hawkish coalition partners Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas. Both warned before the summit that if Olmert made any concessions on either Jerusalem or the so-called outpost communities in Judea and Samaria they would bolt his coalition and so spur new elections.

Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the summit. Both Shas leader Eli Yishai and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman dismissed Annapolis as a pathetic joke and claimed that there is no reason for them to resign from the Olmert government. But these assertions are deliberately misleading.

The fact that the Israeli-PLO joint statement made no specific mention of Jerusalem, and that the government didn't announce a timetable for destroying the so-called outpost communities and expelling the hundreds of Israeli families who live in them, doesn't mean that Israel made no concessions on these issues. In fact, the Olmert government made massive concessions on these issues.

The Israel-PLO joint statement at Annapolis contains a joint pledge "to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis."

Although Olmert, Lieberman and Yishai dismiss this Israeli acceptance of moral equivalence with Palestinian jihadists as a meaningless rhetorical concession, the government's move is rife with political and legal implications. US Ambassador Richard Jones's unprecedented meeting this week with Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch made clear that the US demands that Israeli courts interpret Israeli law in a prejudicial manner in order to demonize Israeli opponents of Palestinian statehood and the ethnic cleansing of the Jews from Judea and Samaria.

Their meeting also signaled that the US expects Israel to treat lawful building activities by Jews in Judea and Samaria and even in sections of Jerusalem as criminal acts. Since the Olmert government accepts that Israel is morally indistinguishable from the Palestinian Authority, it is hard to foresee it preventing the criminalization of its political opponents. From now on, Israelis who oppose the diplomatic moves of the Olmert government can expect to be treated as the moral equivalents of Palestinian terrorists.

At Annapolis the Americans accepted the role of sole arbiter of Israeli and Palestinian compliance with their commitments to the so-called 'Roadmap' and the peace process. They also committed themselves to reaching a comprehensive peace treaty by the end of 2008. But as former US Middle East mediator during the Clinton administration Dennis Ross has admitted, these goals are contradictory. It is impossible to both ensure Palestinian compliance and the achievement of a peace treaty in that timetable.

Writing in The Washington Post after the Oslo peace process collapsed at Camp David and the Palestinian jihad had begun, Ross explained, "The prudential issues of compliance were neglected and politicized by the Americans in favor of keeping the peace process afloat….Every time there was a behavior, or an incident, or an event that was inconsistent with what the peace process was about, the impulse was to rationalize it, finesse it, find a way around it, and not to allow it to break the process."

"What the peace process was about" for the Clinton administration was signing peace agreements. It was not about ensuring that the Palestinians were actually interested in living at peace with Israel. When Rice stated that "failure is not an option," in the coming peace process, she made clear that the same is the case for the Bush administration today. She wants an agreement. Whether the Palestinians are serious about peace or not is none of her business.

Although reporting on Palestinian non-compliance with their commitments to fight terror will harm prospects for speedy "progress," accusing Israel of filching on its commitments will actually speed things along. Alleging Israeli non-compliance will force the pliant Olmert government to make further concessions to the Palestinians.

In light of this, it is clear that contrary to Yishai and Lieberman's dismissive treatment of what happened at Annapolis, Olmert's acceptance of the Americans as both judge of compliance and guarantor of "progress" means that Israel already made massive concessions.

On Jerusalem, for instance, although Yishai is right that Jerusalem is not specifically mentioned in the joint statement, the fact is that Israel agreed to negotiate the status of its capital city by agreeing to discuss all outstanding issues. Since the Americans want a Palestinian state within a year and they know that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not make any concessions on Jerusalem, they can be expected to pressure Israel to accept the Palestinian position. The thousands of Arab Jerusalemites now applying for Israeli citizenship are a clear sign that the Arabs understand that Israel has already made massive concessions on the city. And Yishai must know this.

The American status as arbiters of compliance has far reaching implications for Israel's ability to cope effectively with the security situation in Gaza and the Western Negev. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June, Abbas has opposed any wide-scale IDF counter-terror offensive on the area. Abbas has claimed - probably rightly - that an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza would weaken his position in Palestinian society since the Palestinians support Hamas's positions more than they support him. Given that the Americans are committed to strengthening Abbas, it is obvious that they will veto any Israeli plan to conduct an offensive in Gaza aimed at restoring security to the Western Negev.

Then there is Judea and Samaria. Lieberman claims that he can remain in the government because Olmert has yet to announce a timetable for throwing the Jews out of their homes in the so-called outpost communities. But that isn't Olmert's responsibility anymore. He ceded it to the Americans at Annapolis. They will set the timetable for expulsions, not Olmert. And it isn't only the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria that are now at risk.

By anointing the State Department arbiter of Israeli compliance, the Olmert government gave the Americans the right to veto IDF operations in Judea and Samaria. As the guarantors of progress in the peace process, the Americans will tell the IDF where it can - or more precisely where it cannot - erect roadblocks. The Americans will tell the Israelis what cities and towns to transfer to Fatah control. They will tell Israel what guns and armor to transfer to the Palestinians, what to do with terror fugitives and when and how many terrorists it must release from its prisons.

Actually, the US has been constraining Israel's counter-terror operations in Judea and Samaria for months now. That these American efforts have harmed the effectiveness of the IDF's operations is something that Ido Zoldan's widow can attest to. Zoldan, after all, was murdered last week by Fatah terrorists who owed their ability to move about freely to Israel's decision to bow to American pressure and dismantle 24 roadblocks and curb its efforts to arrest Fatah terror bosses.

In essence, what we see in Olmert's and Livni's machinations is a repeat of Ariel Sharon's and Livni's political maneuvering in the period that preceded the withdrawal from Gaza. In both cases, Israel's senior leaders abide by the basic political understanding that a fight postponed is a fight won.

In 2004 Sharon lacked the political strength to announce openly that he was going to completely withdraw from Gaza and destroy all the Israeli communities in the area. So he allowed the Likud to hold a referendum on his plan to withdraw and authorized Livni to draft the so-called compromise plan according to which the destruction of Israeli communities would take place in four stages over several months and that each stage would require separate government approval.

By the time the Likud rejected his plan, Sharon was strong enough to ignore the will of his party. And when the withdrawal took place, far from taking place in four stages, it took place in four days. Livni and Sharon could ignore their previous commitments because when the time came to pay the piper, they had already destroyed their opponents.

Today, by pretending that the joint declaration at Annapolis was a big nothing, Olmert and Livni are repeating the maneuver. By the time they start throwing Jews out of their homes, they won't need Shas or Yisrael Beiteinu anymore.

Lieberman and Yishai are under no obligation to leave the government. They can stay for as long as they like. But they cannot pretend that by staying they are not full partners in the government's policies. As Annapolis made clear, those policies include dividing Jerusalem, destroying the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and compromising the security of the State of Israel.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Olmert lying about Temple Mount

Aaron Klein

Israeli PM claims holy site not up for talks, but Palestinians say he has already agreed to forfeiture . Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statements on Wednesday that Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for negotiation are "false," according to a chief Palestinian negotiator, who told WND the Israeli leader already agreed to forfeit Judaism's holiest site to a coalition of Arab countries.

"What Olmert said (regarding the Mount) is absolutely false. I think he's not yet ready to tell the Israeli public and is waiting for the right time and he fears his coalition with religious extremists will fall apart if he announces it now," said a senior Palestinian negotiator Thursady on condition his name be withheld.

The chief Palestinian negotiator said in months leading up to Annapolis the Palestinian team was "surprised" by Olmert's willingness to give up the Mount.

"We had intense debates on many topics, which remain open and unsettled, but the Harem Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) is not a sticking point. The Israelis didn't argue with us. We were pleasantly surprised Olmert didn't debate about giving the lower section of the Mount either, which was a sticking point in the past."

According to the chief Palestinian negotiator, Olmert agreed to evacuate the Mount but not to turn it over to the Palestinians alone. The negotiator said both sides agreed the Temple Mount would be given to joint Egypt, Jordan and Palestinian Authority control.

He said the Israeli government felt an umbrella group of several Arab countries controlling the holy site instead of only the PA would help ease Israeli domestic opposition to giving up the Temple Mount, since Egypt and Jordan are considered by Israeli policy to be moderate countries.

'Talks will address all issues'
The Palestinian negotiator pointed out Israeli prime ministers previously denied withdrawal plans only to later carry them out. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected on a platform against evacuating territory, denied for his first year in office he would retreat from the Gaza Strip but in 2005 he carried out a Gaza withdrawal.

In a briefing to reporters yesterday, Olmert claimed Israel's sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not up for discussion. He said negotiations started at this week's Annapolis summit had no bearing on the situation on the Temple Mount.

At the start of Tuesday's summit, President Bush read a joint declaration agreed to by Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas committing the two to launch immediate negotiations aimed at "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side."

The parties said they would aim to conclude an agreement before Bush leaves office next year, with Israel widely expected to evacuate large swaths of the West Bank and speculation about eastern sections of Jerusalem, handing Abbas the strategic territories. Israel recaptured the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, in 1967.

"The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with," said Olmert on Tuesday. "I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it."

Reprinted by permission of


YED: The Conspiracy to Divide Jerusalem

Dr. Michael D. Evans

The Annapolis Peace Summit
Annapolis, Maryland

In the pre-dawn hours, my car winds its way down the streets of this historic city toward the Naval Academy and the Annapolis Summit. Precious fathers, mothers and grandmothers shiver in the cold darkness of the morning.
. AnSome of the men blow shofars and pray openly. Most hold signs printed with their pleas: “Don’t touch Jerusalem,” “Don’t touch the Bible land,” “Don’t touch prophecy.”

Unbidden tears slide down my cheeks for I sense how desperate and hopeless they must feel. These who love Jerusalem are overshadowed by the high and mighty of the world: President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and foreign ministers from many Arab states. Among those are known terrorists who are being treated as honored diplomats.

This is the first international peace conference since the U.S. organized-Madrid Peace Summit at the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. It was during that debacle that I openly challenged former Secretary of State James Baker over Jerusalem. The names change, but the desire to offer up Jerusalem as the sacrifice to appease terrorists is as passionate as ever.

The Madrid Summit destroyed the economy of Israel. It caused the overthrow of the government as literally tens of thousands of Russian Jewish immigrants were forced to sleep in tents. Why? The U.S. froze $10 billion in loan guarantees that would have provided housing for these destitute men, women and children. Israel was ultimately forced to give up more than 80 villages and towns, i.e., Jericho, Hebron, and Bethlehem.

Today, the vultures gather again, sensing that more of the City of David will be laid on the altar of sacrifice. President Bush has agreed in what is being called “The Final Status Plan” to divide Jerusalem before the end of his term in 2008. He has also demanded that Israel halt construction in the settlements for refugees. The plan is to turn those settlements over to the PLO.

The Saudis, of course, want the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to be able to move into Israel, not into the Palestinian Authority land holdings. The plan calls for Palestine to be a state within one year, with East Jerusalem as the capital. This “Final Status Plan” calls for vigorous, unceasing, aggressive negotiations that would end in the creation of a two-state region by the end of 2008.

It seems that the participants of the summit are trying to breathe life back into the Road Map plan introduced in 2003. When Mahmoud Abbas refused to implement the very first clause of the plan – to disarm the terrorist organizations – the plan died in utero.

The Saudis, of course, were overjoyed to hear President Bush’s comments during the Summit. The Road Map, an invention of Saudi Arabia and the Arab League was designed to force Israel to the bargaining table. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon related to me that he had asked for 14 amendments. Secretary of State Colin Powell flatly refused to include any of Sharon’s amendments. Phase Two of the plan as outlined was the dismantling of all terror organizations and their infrastructure. HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade to name a few would have been forced to turn over all illegal weapons and stop terror incitement.

Needless to say, Phase Two was not implemented by Abbas. Quite the opposite occurred: HAMAS took over Gaza; Abbas’ own terror organization, Fatah and al-Aksa martyrs Brigade continue to kill Jews. (The latest murder was that of a 29-year old father of two from the village of Shavei Shomron, just days before the Summit in Annapolis.)

The acceptance of this vile plan would turn Israel into a living hell. The Jewish people would be forced to live next door to a state controlled by Islamic fanatics such as Hamas. I am reminded over and over of the scripture in Psalm 83:2-5: For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You...”

I stand here now with this document in my hand – this “Agreement of Joint Understanding” to which both parties have pledged acceptance. This document, if followed, will result in the division of Jerusalem. I’ve asked myself how the U.S. government could partner with a terror organization responsible for thousands of terror attacks worldwide. How could President Bush cavalierly shake hands with the man responsible for the Munich massacre?

Is George W. Bush so consumed by his legacy that he would sacrifice Jerusalem and hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews to attain his goal? Israel would have to give up the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in East Jerusalem; evacuate most of the strategic West Bank which would leave it vulnerable to rocket attacks in Tel Aviv and at its international airport.

What does the future hold for Israel? President Bush has indicated that Israel had “painful compromises” to make during the negotiations that were to begin immediately. I can tell you that Israel seemed very alone during the Annapolis Summit. It greatly concerns me. Why? President Clinton attempted to divide Jerusalem in January 2001, before the end of his term of office. He almost succeeded. I believe those negotiations and Arafat’s subsequent rejection of Clinton’s offer led directly to the events of 9/11.

Now, President Bush is attempting to follow in Bill Clinton’s footsteps. I, for one, am appalled to have to admit that President Bush believes the Palestinian cause is the root of Islamic hatred for America. His advisors are likely telling him that this agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will affect his legacy in a most positive way. How wrong can they possibly be? Only time will tell.

Can the Palestinian crisis be resolved? YES!

I believe that the first action that must be taken is a rehabilitation package calling for the dismantling of the 59 U.N.-maintained refugee camps. The Arab world needs to provide resettlement, employment and housing for the refugees. This would be similar to what happened to the Jewish refugees throughout Europe and the Arab world in 1948. Secondly, I would do everything to help Jordan grant citizenship to Arabs in the West bank. I believe that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan should serve as their representative body. Jordan granted citizenship status to West Bank Palestinians until the late 1980s. The Palestinians do not need more land; they need a life free of Islamic kindergarten camps that continue to instill hatred for the Jews into children at an early age.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bush won the jackpot

Ron Ben-Yishai

The American Administration gambled, and won the jackpot. In every respect, the Annapolis Conference is a Bush success story and particularly a Condoleezza Rice success story. The factor attesting to Washington’s overwhelming success is the full presence, at the highest ranks, of all Mideastern countries and leading international community elements, as well as the joint declaration that the Administration managed to squeeze out of Olmert and Abbas. Bush and Condi could not hope for more than that.

On the other hand, the big loser is Syria. Bashar Assad sent a representative to Annapolis in the hopes that during the meeting participants will recognize Damascus’ interests (returning the Golan Heights and reinstating Syria’s special status in Lebanon), or at least make note of them in a respectful manner. Yet Bush, Abbas, and Olmert, whose speeches marked the core of this meeting, did not meet Syria’s expectations.

The American president did not even address the Syrian demand to discuss the Golan Heights, and added insult to injury by demanding that foreign elements refrain from interfering in Lebanon and allow its citizens to elect a president without any pressure and live in a democracy, free of threats. Abbas mentioned Syria among the countries that Israel should be reaching a deal with, but he did it as a side-note. Olmert almost completely ignored Syria, aside from an indirect allusion, when he called for peace with “all Arab states to the north and south.” This is not what Assad was hoping for when he sent his deputy foreign minister to Annapolis, thus risking a clash with his supporters in Teheran.

There is no doubt that Bush’s speech, at least media-wise, reestablished the United States’ senior status in the Middle East. He read the joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration and promised to ensure that both sides will not evade serious, ongoing negotiations and meet their duties as outline in the Road Map initiative. He also added a temptation by pledging that his country will use its economic resources and international influence in order to offer material support to the implementation of the agreement to be reached by Olmert and Abbas. Bush presented a simple equation: A state for the Palestinians in exchange for security for Israel.

Olmert has good reason to be satisfied with this speech, which did not include any hint or component that could place him in conflict with his coalition partners. Abbas too cannot complain, because the American President’s speech could not have embarrassed him in any way. The opposite is true: In Annapolis, Bush crowned him as the Palestinians’ only legitimate representative and promised to personally ensure that Israel will not waste time during talks.

Emotional pleas
Yet Bush did not make do with that: His speech included an indirect yet clear reference to all regional problems. In an indirect but clear manner, he demanded that Arab leaders back Abbas, isolate Hamas and Hizbullah, and show determination in the struggle against radical Islam. At the same time, in order not to embarrass his guests, some of whom have close ties with Iran, he refrained from explicitly mentioning Teheran.

While the American president spoke like a practical leader, a “master” who delegates tasks to his allies and makes demands of them, Abbas and Olmert chose to emphasize the emotional aspect. The Palestinian leader warned against missing an opportunity that may not return and against the bloodshed that may result should this opportunity be missed. He also addressed his people emotionally and promised that the end of their suffering is around the corner.

Abbas also directly addressed the Israeli people and asked that they support concessions to the Palestinians. It seemed he was attempting to reconstruct the turnaround in Israeli public opinion that followed the historic speeches of Egyptian President Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein. Of course, he didn’t forget to demand a prisoner release, the removal of roadblocks, the freezing of settlement activity, the dismantlement of illegal outposts, and the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem. Yet his tone was to-the-point and devoid of any accusations and provocations.

Olmert replied with gestures: Official recognition of the Palestinian people’s suffering, a pledge to freeze settlement activity and to dismantle outposts, and more “painful concessions.” There were no surprises in the speeches of both leaders, which is an American success in and of itself.

Most importantly: In Annapolis, the Bush Administration managed to set a new course for reaching Israeli-Palestinian peace. Instead of waiting for the sides to fulfill their obligations and then embark on final-status negotiations, they will quickly and seriously discuss the agreement, but implement it only after they meet the tasks outlined by the Road Map. This model is fully in the spirit of the strategy formulated by Rice and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Now, this strategy was granted the widest possible regional and international approval.

Now, all that is left is to see whether this strategy can be implemented on the ground. A required condition for this is that Abbas and Olmert, separately and together, are able to overcome domestic obstacles. This is a mission that is no less difficult than overcoming all “core issues” combined. Therefore, it is too early to even start assessing whether anything practical will come out of Annapolis.



New York -- The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has described the Annapolis Joint Understanding declaration and aspects of the speeches delivered by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as deeply flawed.. The ZOA has also condemned key aspects of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas' address to the Annapolis meeting while praising President Bush's insistence in his speech that the Palestinian Arabs and the Arabs states explicitly accept Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

The Joint Understanding of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders read by President Bush to the meeting:

· "We express our determination to … mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis": Mutual recognition was supposed to have occurred 14 years ago at Oslo. The fact that this call is repeated here, as it has been in every previous agreement, shows that it has never been given by the Palestinians and is therefore unlikely to ever be forthcoming. This passage also makes the preposterous suggestion that terrorism and incitement to hatred and murder is something that occurs on both the Israeli and the Palestinians sides. Yet it is only on the Palestinian side that clerics can be found condemning Jews as "the sons of monkeys and pigs" or as being akin to the AIDS virus; where video clips glorify suicide murder of Israelis; where the acting parliamentary speaker calls for the murder of Jews and Americans; where streets, schools and colleges are named in honor of suicide bombers; where armed terrorists operate openly in public and where wanted terrorists are shielded in the PA presidential compound. By agreeing to this passage, Israel is acting as if the Speaker of the Knesset had delivered a speech calling for murder of Arabs; or as if the Israeli Chief Rabbi or some other senior rabbinical figure had cited Jewish religious texts calling for the murder of all Muslims; or as if a major Israeli daily newspaper like Haaretz or Maariv contained articles arguing that the utter extermination of all Muslims would be a blessing for humanity; or as if a Jewish educational institution was named after a mass-murderer of Arabs; or as if Prime Minister Olmert shielded terrorists from in his Jerusalem residence. Moreover, Israel has committed virtually no terrorism against Arabs and has promoted sympathy for the Palestinians in official publications and textbooks. The inclusion, therefore, of this passage trivializes the very real issue of Palestinian terrorism and incitement to hatred and murder by suggesting that both sides have been guilty of it is one of the worst forms of moral equivalence we have ever seen.

· "In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements" : By agreeing to this passage, the Israelis have permitted the legally and morally baseless Palestinian demand of a 'right of return' of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants to Israel to be made an issue for negotiation. This discards the stance of successive Israeli governments that it is not responsible for the flight of Palestinians in 1948-49 caused by the Palestinians own decision to wage war on Israel. Moreover, the 'right of return' is incompatible with Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state, which was precisely the Palestinian intention behind the inclusion of such language in the joint declaration.

· " The parties also commit to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, issued by the Quartet on 30 April 2003 -- this is called the road map -- and agree to form an American, Palestinian and Israeli mechanism, led by the United States, to follow up on the implementation of the road map. The parties further commit to continue the implementation of the ongoing obligations of the road map until they reach a peace treaty. The United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map" [emphasis added]: For the first time in its history, an Israeli government has agreed to permit another government to act as arbiter and decide whether it or the Palestinians have met their obligations under signed agreements. This represents a major erosion of Israeli sovereignty and national security, especially in view of the fact that during the Oslo process, the U.S. systematically overlooked Palestinian violations of the Oslo agreements for fear of derailing the process. ( White House , November 27, 2007).

Bush speech:

· "The Palestinian people are blessed with many gifts and talents. They want the opportunity to use those gifts to better their own lives and build a better future for their children. They want the dignity that comes with sovereignty and independence." : This statement ignores the reality of a large amount of polling data and the content of the PA's media, mosque sermons, video clips and TV programs showing that a majority of Palestinians approve of terrorism against Israel, do not accept Israel's permanence as a Jewish as a Jewish state, even if a peace treaty were to be signed and demand the so-called 'right of return' which is incompatible with Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state.

· "Today, Palestinians and Israelis each understand that helping the other to realize their aspirations is key to realizing their own aspirations -- and both require an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state. Such a state will provide Palestinians with the chance to lead lives of freedom and purpose and dignity. Such a state will help provide the Israelis with something they have been seeking for generations: to live in peace with their neighbors" : This simply ignores the abundant evidence of continuing Palestinian extremism and thus the dangers a Palestinian state would pose to Israel. The creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would place Jerusalem and Israel's other major population centers in rocket and rifle range of Palestinian terrorists whom the PA currently glorifies in its media and mosques and after whom they name streets and schools.

· "President Abbas seeks to fulfill his people's aspirations for statehood, dignity and security. President Abbas understands that a Palestinian state will not be born of terror, and that terrorism is the enemy standing in the way of a state. He and Prime Minister Fayyad have both declared, without hesitation, that they are opposed to terrorism and committed to peace. They're committed to turning these declarations into actions on the ground to combat terror": Abbas and the PA do not accept Israel's existence, as Abbas himself told a PA TV audience in October 2006; Abbas does not condemn terrorism as a crime, merely as something that harms Palestinian public relations; nor has he and the PA dismantle terrorist groups, jailed terrorists and confiscated their weaponry. To the contrary, Abbas specifically ruled out cracking down on terror groups, contrary to Oslo and the roadmap. Additionally, Fatah's Constitution to this day calls for the destruction of Israel (Article 12) and the use of terrorism against Israelis as an indispensable part of the struggle to achieve that goal (Article 19). In May 2006, Abbas named Mahmoud Damra, wanted by Israel for leading shooting and roadside bomb attacks against Israelis, including the killing of IDF soldiers near Neve Tzuf in 2000 and of an Israeli citizen near Tapuach, in Samaria, in 2001, as commander of Fatah's Force 17. Like Arafat before him, Abbas has sheltered wanted terrorists in the Muqata, his presidential compound in Ramallah, including Khaled Shawish, a senior Fatah commander responsible for the murder of 19 Israelis and the wounding of dozens more in numerous attacks, until Israeli forces captured him in May 2007. One of many polls

· " For these negotiations to succeed, the Palestinians must do their part. They must show the world they understand that while the borders of a Palestinian state are important, the nature of a Palestinian state is just as important. They must demonstrate that a Palestinian state will create opportunity for all its citizens, and govern justly, and dismantle the infrastructure of terror" : This statement accurately reflects the fact that, contrary to Bush's other assertions about Abbas and the PA being moderates, neither have fulfilled their signed commitment to end terror and incitement that they repeatedly made in Oslo I, Oslo II, Hebron and the Wye River agreements.

· "Arab states should also reach out to Israel, work toward the normalization of relations, and demonstrate in both word and deed that they believe that Israel and its people have a permanent home in the Middle East. These are vital steps toward the comprehensive peace that we all seek … the United States will keep its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people" : Bush correctly stated that Israel must be accepted permanently as a Jewish state, not merely an entity that is accepted provisionally until it can be subverted ( White House , November 27, 2007).

Olmert speech:

· "The continued shooting of Qassam rockets against tens of thousands of residents in the south of Israel, particularly in the city of Sderot, serves as a warning sign - one which cannot be overlooked. The absence of governmental institutes and effective law-enforcement mechanisms, the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the ongoing activity of murderous organizations throughout all the territories of the Palestinian Authority, the absence of a legal system which meets the basic criteria of a democratic government - all these are factors which deter us from moving forward too hastily" : Rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza have been persistent since the start of the Palestinian terrorist wave in 2000 and was not significantly different when Abba's Fatah had undisputed control of Gaza until Hamas took over earlier this year. Accordingly, Fatah provides no greater stability or insurance against violence than Hamas.

· "I wish to say, from the bottom of my heart, that I know and acknowledge the
fact that alongside the constant suffering which many in Israel have experienced because of the history, the wars, the terror and the hatred towards us - a suffering which has always been part of our lives in our land - your people have also suffered for many years, and some still suffer. For dozens of years, many Palestinians have been living in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew, wallowing in poverty, neglect, alienation, bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of deprivation. I know that this pain and deprivation is one of the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred towards us" : With this extraordinary statement, Olmert virtually blames Israeli defensive actions for causing Palestinian suffering, rather than the Palestinian aggression aimed at destroying Israel that gave rise to Israeli security measures in the first place. Palestinians have been for 14 years the highest per capita recipients of international aid in history. Instead of using it to build a prosperous society, funds have gone to terrorism, PA officials and corruption of all kinds. Israel and the world therefore bear no responsibility for the parlous state of the Palestinian economy. By saying otherwise, Olmert absolves Palestinians of responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

· "I am familiar with the Arab peace initiative, which was born in Riyadh, affirmed in Beirut and recently reaffirmed by you in Riyadh. I value this initiative, acknowledge its importance and highly appreciate its contribution. I have no doubt that it will be referred to in the course of the negotiations between us and the Palestinian leadership": The Saudi plan is no peace initiative at all. It demands, in return for Arab recognition and "normalized relations," Israel's withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 armistice lines; the creation of a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital; and the Israeli acceptance of the morally and legally baseless so-called 'right of return' by Palestinian Arab refugees of the 1948-49 war and their millions of descendants to Israel, thereby inundating Israel with hostile Arabs and ending its existence as a Jewish state. Under the terms of this plan, Israel would have to surrender not only eastern Jerusalem with its holiest Jewish sites, but also all of Judea and Samaria, where over 400,00 Israeli Jews live, including the strategically vital Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights. Moreover, the Saudi initiative insists on the 'right of return' and rejects any substitute for it, assuring "the rejection of all forms of Palestinian partition which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries," meaning the rejection of the settling of the refugees and descendants in neighboring Arab countries and the granting of citizenship to them. All previous Israeli governments have rejected the 'right of return' as unacceptable and incompatible with Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state ( Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 27).

Abbas speech:

· "This Arab and Islamic participation in today's meeting is also an affirmation that the Arab peace initiative was not a step without well-defined targets, but indeed it was a bold strategic plan that aims changing the nature of relations in the region and to usher in a new era there. But to achieve that does not depend on the Arab and Islamic position by itself, but requires meeting this position by a reciprocal strategic willingness that would basically lead to ending the occupation of all Palestinian occupied territories in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan and what remains of occupied from Lebanese territories, and to resolve all other issues relating to the conflict, especially the Palestinian refugees question in all its political, humanitarian, individual and common aspects, consistent with Resolution 194, as emphasized by the Arab peace initiative and the participation of sister states that host refugees and carry huge burdens in this regard" : The Arab peace initiative, as demonstrated earlier, is no peace plan at all, nor do Abbas' demands for total Israeli withdrawal find support in United Nations security council Resolution 242, which governs the basis of any peace settlement. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948) is non-binding, speaks only of a return of refugees within the context of the Arab world making peace with Israel and was in consequence rejected by all Arab parties at the time.

· "We do recognize, and I presume that you share with me this view, that the absence of hope and overwhelming despair would feed extremism" : Palestinian poverty and desperation is produced by Palestinian insistence on maintaining war against Israel, not by Israel and terrorism and violence which it produces is caused by radical Islamist and pan-Arab ideology, neither of which can accept the existence of an independent Jewish state. Moreover, studies at Harvard and Princeton show that most terrorism, including by Palestinian suicide bombers is committed by people with above-average education and from middle-class backgrounds, not one of deprivation and poverty.

· "We have to support this negotiating process in concrete and direct steps on the ground that would prove that we are moving in an irreversible path toward negotiated, comprehensive and full peace, and ending all settlement activities, including natural growth, and reopening closed Jerusalem institutions, removal of settlement outposts, removal of road blocks, and freedom of prisoners, and to facilitate our mission in the authority to enforce law and the rule of law. Here, I must defend in all sincerity and candor, and without wavering, the right of our people to see a new dawn, without occupation, without settlement, without separation walls, without prisons where thousands of prisoners are detained, without assassinations, without siege, without barriers around villages and (inaudible).I look forward, Mr. President, to see that our prisoners have been set free and returned to exercise their role in supporting peace and to stand by us in our mission to build our statehood and our homeland. It is my duty to say that, to have peace, we need the fate of the city of Jerusalem to be a critical component in any peace accord that we might reach." If Abbas was a genuine peace-maker, he would not be calling for the release of jailed Palestinian terrorists who murder and maim Israelis, nor would he welcome them back into the PA. A genuine Palestinian peace-maker would be able to accept Jews living in a Palestinian state, just as large numbers of Arabs live within the Jewish state as citizens. A genuine peace maker would deal with the terrorism that causes Israeli security measures, not demand their removal as of right.

· "We need East Jerusalem to be our capital and to establish open relations with Western Jerusalem, and to ensure for all the faithful from all religions their right to exercise their rituals and to access holy shrines without any discrimination and on the basis of international and humanitarian goals": Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab state, not even Jordan when Jordan controlled the eastern half of the city. Freedom of religious expression in Jerusalem and indeed in the Middle East has only occurred under Israeli rule, not under Arab rule. PA officials have also foreshadowed that they would prohibit Jewish worship at the Western Wall were it ever handed over to their control.

· "The whole world today now is stretching its hand toward us in order to help us put an end to our tragedy, to our holocaust that has been running for too long, and to lift the historical injustice that our people suffer": By referring to Palestinian travails as a 'holocaust,' Abbas grossly offends the memory of 6 million Jew deliberately murdered by the Nazis, which occurred with the active collaboration of the Palestinian leadership at the time. By use of this term, Abbas implicitly called Israelis Nazis – and this at a supposed peace conference. (Associated Press, November 27, 2007).

· Abbas' speech said nothing about condemning terrorism as a moral crime and obscenity; promised to do nothing to combat terrorism and end the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it; did not undertake to rename the streets, schools and sports teams named in honor of suicide bombers – in short, did not undertake anything to indicate that he was truly serious about making peace with Israel as a Jewish state.


One of our best friends defeated

Isi Leibler
November 29, 2007

Australian Labor party leader, Kevin Rudd, the scholarly former diplomat to Beijing who speaks fluent Mandarin, won a landslide victory in Sunday's Australian elections, abruptly terminating the uninterrupted near-12 year reign of Conservative Prime Minister John Howard and ending his illustrious 33 year political career.
Like Winston Churchill in his day and many another politician, Howard misread the mood of the electorate. He underestimated the "its time for a change" factor which invariably leads to voters rejecting outstanding political leaders who have been in power for a long duration, even when they have brought affluence, as long as there is a credible alternative candidate.

Many Australian Jews and Israelis will be deeply saddened to lose a leader whose genuine and unremitting friendship captured their hearts. John Howard was unquestionably one of Israel's greatest champions among world statesmen and a unique friend of the Jewish people.

His outspoken support for Israel during the difficult days of the second intifada and Second Lebanon War set him apart from other leaders, including those who regarded themselves as friends of Israel. He regarded his principled support of Israel as a moral imperative and displayed contempt for the political correctness exemplified by the Europeans at international forums who were inclined to distance themselves from supporting Israel even when, by all objective criteria, the Jewish state held the moral high ground.

There are few politicians who could state, as he recently did, that "the personal friendship I have for the Jewish people will never be diminished. It is something I value as part of my being and as part of what I have tried to do with my life."

The defeat of the Howard government will also see the retirement of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Treasurer Peter Costello, both of whom were enthusiastic supporters of Israel in their own right. The only saving grace is that Howard's successor as leader of the Opposition will probably be Malcolm Turnbull, the former minister for the environment who also has a consistent track record of supporting Israel.

The special relationship of the Howard government with Israel does not imply that their predecessors were hostile. Australia has a uniquely bipartisan track record of friendship with the Zionist cause which dates back well before the creation of the state.

Since 1948 there has only been one leader, Gough Whitlam (1972-1975), whose hostility against Israel in the course of the Yom Kippur War made him an exception to the rule.

Much of the credit for this can be attributed to the 120,000 strong, fiercely proud Jewish community which has a proportionately higher number of Holocaust survivors than any other Diaspora, and is recognized as being strongly Zionist orientated.

There is considerable hope that the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will maintain Australia's tradition of friendship. He has visited Israel twice, in 2003 and 2005. When I dined with him in Jerusalem, my initial impression was that although Rudd had a contrasting background and personality to Howard, he nevertheless displayed a genuine friendship.

However I did harbour reservations subsequently when I heard that Rudd would invariably tend to support the "more politically balanced" approach on the Middle East exemplified by European abstentions on Israel-related issues in United Nations bodies.

Rudd also distanced himself from President George W. Bush on Iraq and has committed his new government to a phased withdrawal of the 550 Australian troops stationed there.

Yet by and large since assuming leadership of the Labor Party prior to the elections, Rudd has unquestionably displayed a warmer approach to Israel. When I met him again last month on a visit to Australia I was left with the feeling that despite nuances, a Labor government will remain closer aligned to the policy of the Howard legacy than most people visualize.

In fact, on the eve of the elections, Rudd declared his adamant refusal to have any relationship with Hamas unless it reversed its refusal to recognize the Jewish state. He also announced that a Labor government would initiate steps to summon Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before the International Court of Justice on charges of incitement to genocide. Rudd said that the Iranian president's remarks about wiping Israel off the face of the world and his convening a conference to review the veracity of the Holocaust "amounted to incitement to genocide, criminalized under the 1948 genocide convention."

In a parallel move related to the needs of the Australian Jewish community, Rudd committed Labor to provide $36 million of additional support for Jewish schools over a four year period. This included funds to cover the special security related requirements of Jewish day schools. This precedent is of great importance to a Jewish community which prides itself on having achieved the highest pro rata enrolment in Jewish day schools in the world.

Needless to say, undertakings made prior to elections should not be taken for granted. Rudd will encounter opposition from within his party to the implementation of some of his commitments. He will certainly face opposition from the radical pro-Palestinian wing of the party, described by a former Jewish Labor Party Minister Barry Cohen as "distinctly anti Semitic." They will undoubtedly endeavor to undermine Rudd's pro-Israel stance. However their chances of success are slim for they are politically marginal.

The impact of Islamic fundamentalism, including the Bali bombing which killed nearly 100 Australians and the venomous public outbursts from some of the more radical Muslim clerics in Australia have undoubtedly influenced public opinion and weakened the Palestinian cause. In addition, after such a landslide victory at the polls, Rudd is now in a unique position of strength to ensure that his policies are implemented.

To summarize, all indicators suggest that the new government will remain pro-Israel. Only time will tell the extent to which it will fully replicate the extraordinary support of the former Howard government and resist the temptation to become more "even handed" at the UN and other international forums.

Michael Danby, a committed Zionist parliamentarian close to Rudd, is quoted in the media as saying that on the eve of the elections, his leader had told a Jewish audience "that support for Israel and the Jewish community is in his DNA." That surely gives grounds for optimism.

The writer was head of the Australian Jewish community for many years before making aliya.


"First Take"

Arlene Kushner

In Annapolis yesterday, President Bush read a joint statement on behalf of Olmert and Abbas. This was a last minute statement that was made possible because it simply didn't mention the core issues that had caused so much dissention between the parties.
. It says that the parties "agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."

The deadline of the end of 2008 -- theoretically designed to bring culmination before Bush's term ends -- is not binding, but a goal to aim towards, although undoubtedly there would be pressure applied.

Olmert and Abbas will first meet on December 12, and every two weeks thereafter; a steering committee will work "continuously" to develop a work plan. The goal is "two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security." To that end, there will be a peace treaty that "will resolve all outstanding issues, including core issues without exception."

The parties will immediately begin to implement their respective obligations under the road map and will continue to do so until the treaty is achieved. An American, Palestinian and Israeli mechanism will be set up to monitor implementation, and the United States will serve as the judge of whether commitments under the road map have been fulfilled.


How bad is this?

I understand that Abbas (as his predecessor Arafat did during Oslo) balked at the last moment and had to be coerced by Rice -- the queen of the coercers -- into agreeing to this joint statement. Ali Waked, reporting from Ramallah for YNet says that the Palestinians think that Israel came out ahead. They are disgruntled because there is no mention in this agreement of Israeli withdrawal to pre-'67 lines, or to eastern Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state, or to the "return" of refugees to Israel.

But the reverse is also true. There is no written acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state (thus the door is potentially open for refugee "return"). There is no assurance of Israel's right to retain major settlement blocs. There is no reference to Jerusalem as the eternal undivided capital of Israel.

It's all wide open.


It is of particular and serious concern is that the US will decide when the Palestinians have met their road map obligations regarding the elimination of terrorist infrastructure. Actually, this is terrifying. Because the PA security apparatus is NOT going to eliminate terrorist infrastructure. They have never ever made a serious effort in this regard, and with Hamas breathing down their necks and Abbas weaker than ever, they are certainly not going to do so now.

But every so often they make a show of it. They arrested some Hamas people in Judea and Samaria --and never prosecuted any and have since let most go.

So what happens if the US -- as arbiter of fulfillment of commitments under the road map -- decides that the show is sufficient and permits itself to be taken in by the surface appearance? What if the US -- so eager to show results before Bush retires -- cuts the PA slack for the millionth time? What if our security people know it's not safe to move on to the next stage (which would involve our withdrawal), even though the US says it is?

Under this formula we have relinquished our right to protect ourselves.


There is unease with regard to proceeding according to the road map for yet another reason. There has been a great deal of talk about jumping to stage 3 -- formation of a permanent Palestinian state, even while stage 1 -- which requires the elimination of terrorism -- is not complete. There's been some convoluted notion that the state that would be negotiated would serve as incentive and would not be actualized until stage 1 was fulfilled. I have addressed the dangers implicit in this before.

What I see here is that the stages of the road map are not addressed and it is not all together clear that the described process will require completion of stage 1, and then stage 2, before stage 3 is even reached.


What particularly irritated me was the statement in the declaration that reeked of moral equivalency: "we express our confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis."

Excuse me! Our defensive measures -- including selective killing of terrorists -- are NOT terrorism. We are defending against terrorism. And incitement? The incitement of the PA is outrageous and nothing of this sort exists within Israeli society. Take a look at Palestinian Media Watch which documents that just today PA TV ran a map that erases Israel.

Such studied even-handedness on the part of Bush does not augur well for the US role in this matter.


Actually, I look at this whole preliminary agreement and I want to say to Bush, "You've got to be kidding! This is a joke, right?" Although a joke that is no longer funny because it now has potential consequences. The PA simply is not in a place to see through its commitments and it's lunacy to pretend that it can. There is no way in the world that Abbas could possibly get his act together (even assuming he wants to) in just over a year. He doesn't even control all of Judea and Samaria, and from what I'm reading there has been anti-Annapolis unrest there that has made his standing even weaker. People are unhappy because he wasn't victorious -- with promises on all those core issues and the US squeezing Israel hard. Abbas has won nothing with his participation in this show.

As to incitement -- it would take years to redo those textbooks that have no maps of Israel and praise jihad.

Bush in his statement at Annapolis, in which he introduced the joint declaration, spoke of an "historic opportunity to encourage the expansion of freedom and peace in the holy land.

"We meet to lay the foundation for the establishment of a new nation, a democratic Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security."

If he really believes this he is so far out of touch with reality as to require professional help. The fact that the PA had elections does not make it a "democratic" entity; it is very very far removed from the liberal principles such as protection of human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of press and equal rights under the law that are concomitant with true democracies. The PA is a corrupt, terror-ridden, violence-worshiping, grossly ineffectual entity that sure is not about to metamorphise into something else in 13 months.


And, let us not forget, there is still the issue of Gaza, which everyone has agreed must be an integral part of a Palestinian state. How is Abbas to accomplish this? What makes anyone think it's possible? (An interesting note: Abbas is referred to as head of the PLO, which nominally gives him authority to negotiate for all Palestinians. But there is no reference to Gaza at all, which is a serious omission.)

I read one commentary that suggested that the way to deal with Gaza is by having the IDF go in and weaken Hamas for Abbas. But Khaled Abu Toameh vociferously disagrees. He describes the thousands who marched in Gaza City on Tuesday, chanting "We will never recognize Israel."

Said Abu Toameh, "The Annapolis conference may have improved relations between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, but it has also deepened divisions among the Palestinians. The negotiations that are expected to take place after the Annapolis meeting will only aggravate the crisis on the Palestinian arena, making it harder for Abbas to even consider the possibility of returning to the Gaza Strip."

As to Abbas relying on the IDF in Gaza, Abu Toameh explains:

"The last thing Abbas would want is to return to the Gaza Strip with the help of the IDF. Such a move would only damage his credibility and turn many Arabs and Muslims against him. 'Abbas would be a fool to return to the Gaza Strip aboard an Israeli tank,' remarked a Hamas official in the West Bank. 'Any Palestinian who enters the Gaza Strip with Israel's assistance will be treated as an enemy.'

"History has shown that Palestinians who were empowered by Israel did not last for long in power. The best example is the Village Leagues, a group that was established in the West Bank after Israel dismissed most of the elected pro-PLO mayors in the early 1980s.
"The heads and members of the Village Leagues were quickly condemned as traitors by their own people and some of them were assassinated."

With all the hoopla, then, Bush has simply made it harder for the "moderate" Abbas and diminished the possibility of resolving the Gaza issue.


Yet another factor that is deeply disturbing is the difference in the stances of Abbas and Olmert.

Abbas made a statement saying that they "must" have east Jerusalem as their capital. Actually, he said, there must be an end to "occupation of all Palestinian lands since 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan and occupied Lebanese territory.
"We need East Jerusalem to be our capital, and to establish open relations with West Jerusalem,"

As I've noted repeatedly, there are no concessions on the PA side.

But Olmert? He's standing on his head to show how much he's willing to sacrifice, and Livni is just one step behind him. Said he, "We are ready for painful concessions...I have no doubt that the reality that was formed in our region in 1967 will change in a most significant manner. I know this, and we are ready for it."

We? Speak for yourself, Ehud. He does not have a mandate to do this.

Besides which, it is the very worst of negotiating stances. I've read that some Palestinians, observing Olmert's eagerness, have concluded that it's best to stall on finalizing negotiations. If they want to bring matters to closure, they might be expected to compromise somehow, but if they act reluctant, Olmert will keep on offering more.

How much easier we could rest if we had someone strong for our side at the head of our state. He made no demands in his speech, other than the need for peace. No talk of Jewish Jerusalem or our sacred heritage.

(See Moshe Sharon on the matter of negotiations with the Arabs at


I know that Olmert typically does not keep his word, but I am particularly incensed by his failure to do so with regard to the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

He couldn't have been clearer just a little over two weeks ago, when he said that unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as "a Jewish state" there would be no talks at Annapolis: "I do not intend to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state. This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state."

Just one day later he referred to "recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people" as the "launching point for all negotiations. We won't have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people."

And now, such recognition has not been forthcoming and he has proceeded anyway.

He must be called on this.


Obviously there will be a great deal more to say, but this suffices for today. As I often comment, this is a situation that has to be watched. Who knows? Olmert might actually be indicted for corruption, causing him to leave office. Abbas might be taken down in Judea and Samaria by Hamas. The PA might stonewall so totally, insisting they want it all, that negotiations muddle on with nothing happening. The US might get honest enough to admit it when the PA does not meet its obligation to dismantle terror infrastructure.

Maybe it will fizzle before too much damage is done...


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Text of Israeli-Palestinian Agreement to Restart Peace Talks

Here is a text of the Israel-Palestinian agreement to formally restart Mideast peace talks, as read to the U.S.-organized peace conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday:
The representatives of the government of the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, represented respectively by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, in his capacity as chairman of the PLO executive committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, have convened in Annapolis, Maryland, under the auspices of President George W. Bush of the United States of America, and with the support of the participants of this international conference having concluded the following joint understanding:

We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis.

In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements.

We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.

For this purpose, a steering committee led jointly by the head of the delegation of each party will meet continuously as agreed.

The steering committee will develop a joint work plan and establish and oversee the work of negotiations teams to address all issues, to be headed by one lead representative from each party.
The first session of the steering committee will be held on 12 December, 2007.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert will continue to meet on a biweekly basis to follow up the negotiations in order to offer all necessary assistance for their advancement.

The parties also commit to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issued by the quartet on 30 April, 2003 – this is called the road map – and agree to form an American, Palestinian and Israeli mechanism led by the United States to follow up on the implementation of the road map.

The parties further commit to continue the implementation of the ongoing obligations of the road map until they reach a peace treaty. The United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map.

Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the road map, as judged by the United States.


Text of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Speech at Annapolis Conference Nov 27, 2007

Allow me Mr. President to thank you in my capacity as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and on behalf of the Palestinian people, for inviting us to this international conference. In the Name of God, the Most Gracious Most Merciful

President Bush
Prime Minister Olmert
Ministers and Representatives of Participating States
Distinguished Guests,

Peace and the Grace of God be Upon You

Allow me Mr. President to thank you in my capacity as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and on behalf of the Palestinian people, for inviting us to this international conference. This conference symbolizes the crystallization of the entire world's will in its march towards achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace in our region and in bringing long-anticipated justice to our country where oppression, wars, occupation and violence have prevailed in the previous decades.

Today, Your Excellency, you stress the need to make the most difficult choice-the choice of making peace and ending a dark era marked by hatred. It is an era for which the peoples of the region have paid a dear price with the lives of its youth, the future of subsequent generations and the prosperity, advancement and liberty of millions of us all.

Therefore, I thank you Mr. President. By calling this historic conference, you have sent a very clear and strong message to the peoples of the entire Middle East, who now watch with great hope as well as tremendous fear of losing yet another opportunity. The intent of your letter of invitation is not obscure: It expresses your personal commitment and the commitment of your great nation to attaching the highest priority to negotiations to achieve a long-awaited peace between both Palestinians and Israelis and the broader Arab world and Israel. We hope that this will be the culmination of your legacy for the world-a world more free of violence, persecution and fanaticism.

I must commend you, Your Excellency, on choosing this gorgeous city of Annapolis as the site for the conference. In addition to its beauty, Annapolis symbolizes liberty, the most exalted value of all. Freedom, for Palestinians is perhaps the most evocative word-the word that captures the collective hope of Palestinians and their aspiration for future generations. It is their sun and the light of their future. It is the last word of their martyrs and victims and the daily hymns of their prisoners.

I would also like to express my deep gratitude to Secretary Rice and her team. Without their persistence and perseverance-and without their ability to grasp all aspects of the conflict in our region-we would not have been able to gather here today. Secretary Rice took important strides in her quest to emphasize that the path to peace through negotiations is the only path-and that this path is irreversible.

I must also stress that the exceptionally broad participation of our brothers and sisters from Arab and Islamic countries, the Quartet, the G8 and the Permanent members of the United Nations, in addition to many European and Asian countries, as well as members from the Non-Alliance block and the African continent, in a conference unique in the conflict's history is a driving force that helps imbue the conference with added legitimacy. This broad participation also demonstrates strong support for Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to persevere in their quest to reach the Two-State solution, which is based on ending the occupation and establishing a sovereign State of Palestine living side by side with the State of Israel by resolving all of the permanent status issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the broader Arab-Israeli conflict, which will prove indispensable to forging peaceful and normal relations in the region. I am proud of this broad Arab and Muslim contribution and the broad international participation because it shows the support of sister countries for the Palestinian people and their leadership to establish peace. Such support endorses our approach, which calls for an historic and balanced settlement that will ensure peace and security for our independent state, for Israel and for the entire region.

The Arab and Islamic presence also demonstrates that the Arab Peace Initiative was never a move without a definite goal but rather a courageous strategic choice aimed at changing the nature of relations in the region and beginning anew. This historic Arab and Islamic shift and quest for a regional peace should now be a similar willingness to engage by all as it will lead to ending the occupation in all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights and parts of Lebanon and as it will also lead to resolving all the other permanent status issues. Chief among these is the plight of Palestinian refugees which must be addressed holistically-that is, in its political, human, and individual dimensions in accordance with UNGA resolution 194, as emphasized in the Arab Peace Initiative, and with the participation of sister Arab countries who have borne the heavy burden of hosting the refugees for decades.

It is no exaggeration to say, Your Excellency, that today marks a juncture in the history of our region-a juncture between two eras: The Pre-Annapolis era and its aftermath. In other words, the exceptional opportunity that the Arab, Islamic and international presence brings today coupled with overwhelming Palestinian and Israeli public opinion in support of Annapolis, must be seized in order to be a launching pad for a negotiations process. The possibilities offered by today's conference must not be wasted. This window of opportunity might never open again and if it does, it might never claim the same consensus or momentum.

Mr. President,

What we face today is not only the challenge of peace but also a test of the credibility of all involved: The credibility of the United States of America, members of the Quartet, the entire international community, Israel, the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority, as well as the Arab and Islamic group. It is a test that will draw deep marks in the future of the region and the relations among its peoples on the one hand and on the international forces that care about the region's peace and security on the other.

With this outlook, we come to Annapolis today. We therefore recognize the weight of responsibility upon our shoulders and the burden that we will have to bear. We recognize, and I believe that you share our opinion, that the absence of hope and the infiltration of desperation into the hearts of peoples is what feeds extremism. It is therefore our joint duty to allow for real hope to thrive. This way, we hope that with your full support and involvement we might achieve a complete transformation and that a genuine peace can be achieved soon, before the end of your term, Mr. President.

Tomorrow, we embark on a serious and comprehensive negotiations process on all the permanent status issues including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, security, and water, as well as others. We must support such negotiations with tangible and direct steps on the ground, which will be taken as proof of having embarked on an irreversible track towards a negotiated, comprehensive and full peace. Such steps must involve freezing all settlement activities including natural growth, reopening institutions in Jerusalem, removing settlement outposts, removing checkpoints, releasing prisoners and facilitating the mission of the Palestinian Authority in restoring law and order.

With all frankness and without any hesitation, I have to defend the right of my people to open their eyes to a new dawn free of occupation, settlements, apartheid walls, prisons full of prisoners, targeted assassinations, and the siege of checkpoints around villages and cities. I look forward, Your Excellency, to the day when our prisoners are free and to the day when they can assume their roles in supporting peace and building their homeland and state. It is also my duty to say that the destiny of Jerusalem is a key issue in any peace treaty we reach. We want East Jerusalem to be our capital-a capital where we will have open relations with West Jerusalem and where we will guarantee for believers of all religions the freedom to practice their rituals and to have access to the holy sites without discrimination and in accordance with international humanitarian law.

In this context, I would like to emphasize that we will continue to carry out our responsibilities in accordance with the Roadmap in fighting lawlessness, violence and terrorism and in restoring law and order. The government of the PA is working tirelessly in extremely difficult conditions to achieve this noble cause. We do this for our own people because we must, not because it is a political requirement imposed upon us in previous accords or the Roadmap.

Our people clearly understand the difference between the threat posed by terrorism versus using terrorism as a pretext to maintain an intolerable situation. Our civil, security and economic institutions must be given the opportunity to function and this process must be sponsored by the international community until our authority and government are able to fully assume their responsibilities. I must also stress that our determination to end occupation stems from our vision that by doing so we destroy one of the most important excuses for terrorism in our region and in the world. I say this without undermining the necessity to fight terrorism regardless of time, conditions or source because it is a danger that threatens the future of all peoples and can doom civilization and destroy its accomplishments.

Here, I would like to praise Mr. Tony Blair for his distinctive and meticulous role in building Palestinian institutions and promoting major economic projects to improve the conditions of daily life and consequently prospects of peace. He is amazing in presenting creative ideas that contribute to inspire political movement and promote security. In this regard, the role of the European Union, Japan and our Arab brothers who provide ongoing support for economic projects and institution building is also highly appreciated.

Mr. President,

I want to use this opportunity to speak to every mind, heart and conscience of every Israeli citizen, based on my full recognition that without undermining the importance of international and regional backing, the determining element for making peace and sustaining it are the public opinions in Palestine and in Israel and the commitment of their legitimate leaderships.

I would like to begin by saying that in spite of our differences over some of the most difficult issues in the Conflict, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has shown a desire for peace that I felt during our bilateral meetings. This desire for peace has genuinely contributed to our reaching this important step that we inaugurate today. Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to continue working closely with you until we are able to complete this historic long-awaited mission together. It is essential that each one of us uses his weight, experience and determination to overcome the difficulties that will face us and to bridge the gaps between our two positions so that we can achieve a resolution. This is how we will end occupation and long years of suffering for our refugees; this is how we will ensure neighborly relations, economic cooperation and people-to-people relations, all of which are the strongest guarantees for a sustainable peace.

I would also like to speak to the citizens of Israel on this exceptional occasion to tell them: Our neighbors on this small piece of land, neither you nor we are begging for peace from one another. Peace is a common interest of yours and ours. Peace and freedom are our rights just as peace and security are your rights and ours.

It is time that the cycle of bloodshed, violence and occupation end. It is time to look into the future with confidence and hope. It is time for this aching land that is called the land of love and peace to live up to its name. Peace is not impossible if we have the will and the good intentions and when each side realizes its rights.

He who says that making peace between Palestinians and Israelis is impossible wants only to prolong the duration of conflict and to propel it into the abyss of the unknown. This unknown is unfortunately very known to us: it is more decades of bloodshed, after which we will not arrive to a solution different from what is offered today-the contours and the essence of which is known to each one of us. The continuation of the conflict might also lead to the death of the idea of peace in our minds, hearts and consciousness. Peace is possible. It requires, however, a common effort to achieve it and to sustain it. Today we extend our hands to you as equals and the world is our witness and support. We must not lose this opportunity that might never be repeated. Let us make the peace of the brave and guard it for the sake of both our children and yours.

To our friends all over the world: members of the Quartet, participants in this conference, and other countries and nations who are not present here today who supported us in the past and who continue to be willing to help us, I would like to tell you that our people will not forget your support under the most difficult conditions. We are looking forward to your continued political presence with us after the conference is over to ensure the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations process achieves its goals. We hope that the work of this conference will be enhanced by the success of the Paris Economic conference that will be held in a few weeks.

The continuation of the negotiations and their success is the real key to changing the face of the entire region.

The Almighty God says in the Holy Quran: O Ye who believe! Come all of you into peace and follow not the footsteps of the devil. He is an open enemy for you. Al-Baqra 208

And if they incline to peace, incline also to it, and trust in Allah. He is the hearer, the knower. Al-Anfal 61

I also would like to recall what President John F. Kennedy said: "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."

To my Palestinian people, to all Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the refugee camps in the Diaspora, I would like to share these words with you: I recognize that each and every one of you has their personal pain and special tragedy stemming from this conflict and years of al-Nakbeh and bitter occupation. Do not lose confidence or hope. The entire world is extending their hands to us to help end the years of our everlasting Nakbeh. The world is trying to help us end the historic injustice that was inflicted on our two peoples. We will be ready as individuals and as a people to overcome the pain and tragedy when we reach a settlement that will give us rights that are equal to people elsewhere on this world: the rights to independence and self-determination.

And to Palestinian mothers who are awaiting the return of their jailed sons; to the children who are dreaming of a new life and a prosperous and more peaceful future; to our brave prisoners and to all of my sons and daughters wherever you are: Have faith in tomorrow and the future because an independent Palestine is coming. This is the promise of the entire world to you today. Trust that the dawn is coming.

To my people and family in the Gaza Strip: You are in my heart and the hours of darkness will vanish before your determination does and our determination to the unity of our people in the West Bank and Gaza as a unified and unbreakable geographic and political entity will overcome. Your suffering will end. Justice and peace will prevail.

Mr. President,

I would like to end with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln, which he wrote during one of the most difficult moments in American history: "Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to do all that we may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Thank you Mr. President and Peace and blessings of God be upon you.


PLO Mission
Washington, DC

Olmert in Peaceland

Michael Freund


Well, it has been quite a week for the peacemakers. In the 72 hours prior to yesterday's Annapolis conference, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired six Kassam rockets and over a dozen mortar shells at Israeli towns and cities throughout the Negev.
. Jerusalem was placed on high alert on Sunday, with roadblocks and checkpoints set up at the various entrances to the city, after intelligence reports indicated that two terrorists were on their way to the capital to carry out a mass attack.

And in Hebron, a young Palestinian armed with a knife was caught at the Tomb of the Patriarchs planning to stab the first Jew he could find.

Phew - after all those decades of bloodshed, it sure sounds like reconciliation is finally at hand.

But hey, what's a few explosive projectiles, two would-be suicide bombers and a sharpened blade between friends? When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is determined to throw a party, she isn't going to let pesky little details, such as Palestinian attempts to murder Israelis, get in the way of salvaging her chances at a legacy.

Peace of the brave, or peace of the knave, it hardly really seems to matter all that much to Ms. Rice. As long as the lighting is just right for the grand photo-op, and her coiffed hair is oh-so-perfectly in place, the future of the Jewish state will just have to take a back seat to more pressing concerns.

INDEED, watching the carnival unfold at Annapolis this week, I was inspired to reach for Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland, where the main character falls down a rabbit-hole into a world far removed from our own, one where the rules of logic and common sense simply do not apply.

One can easily imagine Secretary Rice in the role of the Queen of Hearts, badgering and threatening Israeli and Arab officials to make sure they show up and smile. Or, to borrow a phrase from the book, "The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round."

And how about the Mad Tea Party, where the March Hare, the Hatter and the Dormouse crowd together at the table and proceed to lambast and insult Alice to her face? With that image in mind, consider how Israel has been greeted by various Arab participants at the Annapolis gathering.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declared that he would not even shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hand, and on Monday, the Saudi embassy in Washington expelled Israeli journalists from its premises for seeking to attend a press conference.

The Gulf Arab emirate of Bahrain flatly rejected a proposal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, while the Palestinians refuse even to recognize the country as a Jewish state.

If our Arab foes won't shake hands with us and won't even recognize us, then what are the chances that they will truly wish to live in peace with us? Or, as Alice herself put it, "It's the stupidest tea party I ever was at in all my life!"

The outcome of this process, like the trial presided over by the King and Queen of Hearts at the book's end, is a foregone conclusion. In the story, at the very opening of the hearings, before even a word of evidence has been presented, the King turns to the jury and declares, "Consider your verdict."

And that, quite sadly, is what Annapolis and the process it is meant to spawn, is all about. For everyone, it seems, including many members of our own government, views Israel as the party which must submit to the other side's demands, regardless of whether truth, justice and morality would dictate otherwise.

AND THAT is what makes the parallels between Alice in Wonderland, and Ehud Olmert in Peaceland, so frighteningly real. By plunging down this rabbit-hole, we have placed ourselves in a land of make-believe, only one where the consequences are likely to be far more painful and real than those in the children's story.

But if you remember the book well, then you know that all is not truly lost.

For Alice's nightmare finally comes to an end when she can stand it no longer. Turning to the Queen and her assembled guests, the newly-assertive young girl realizes the folly of the proceedings around her, before telling them, "Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

"At this," says the narrative, "the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her: she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face."

It was, after all, just a bad dream, one which fizzled away as soon as Alice came to her senses and stood up to her would-be aggressors.

May Israel and its leaders finally do the same, and realize that fantasy worlds such as Peaceland exist only in their imagination.