Monday, November 19, 2007

Diplomacy On The Fly

The US administration is once again trying to put together some kind of peace plan between Israel and Palestine, according to an article in today's NY Times. The goal is to simultaneously work through the protocols of the first stage of the Roadmap plan initiated several years ago and the final status issues (status of Jeruselem and the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees) at the same time.

To kick off the plan, the White House has summoned the primary parties and other Arab nations to Annapolis next week.

By pushing Israel to accept immediate negotiations with the Palestinians on the thorny “final status” issues, with the aim to conclude a peace settlement within a year, the Bush administration is trying to attract a significant Arab presence at the peace conference in Annapolis, Md.

The meeting in Annapolis, now penciled in to start Nov. 26 and last less than 24 hours, is meant to begin — and bless — negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders on a final peace agreement between them, ostensibly to be completed by the end of the Bush presidency.
[Emphasis added]

Problems have already begun surfacing for the meeting. The Bush Administration wants a ministerial level contingent from the Arab nations involved, not just ambassadors to the US, and the Saudis appear to be balking at that. Further, one of the key players, Syria, has not committed at any level to attend unless it can be assured that the Golan Heights is part of any settlement deal.

The second problem is that most of the parties are concerned that not enough diplomatic groundwork has been laid in anticipation of the meeting.

American officials are not sure that the negotiations, even with leaders who seem to respect one another, will succeed. Others worry that the effort to get Annapolis in place has meant that the Bush administration has not done the diplomatic groundwork necessary to get the negotiations off to a rapid and serious start, or that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will not be able to spend the time necessary to keep the parties moving ahead when the difficult issues of borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem surface in all their excruciating detail.

...even the Israeli left is worried. Colette Avital, a senior Labor Party member, was in Washington for briefings from Bush officials.

“We understand that Annapolis will launch something, and we understand to a certain degree it can’t be much more,” she said. “But the groundwork is not being prepared for the next day.”

Ms. Avital said she supported the Bush efforts and the timing. “But I would like to see this done more carefully and ensure that work is done to make it a success,” she said. “It will be a long shot anyway. Most of us know how easy it is to fail, and what are the consequences of failure, and those could be very bad this time.”

In other words, that part of the world is concerned that the Bush White House has put together this gathering as either just a photo op or as a last ditch effort to salvage something that can be construed as a "Bush Legacy," but doing so in the slapdash manner that has been so typical of this administration's diplomacy. The rest of the world has every right to be concerned. If this approach fails, and --without the proper preparation -- it probably will, the consequences of that failure could push back any real peace effort for years.

And serving as a backdrop to the meeting will be the continuing Iraq War and the sabre rattling against Iran, neither of which will help the process along.

It is hard to be optimistic about this latest proposal, damned hard.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home