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November 24, 2007
Saudis Will Attend Annapolis Summit
Saudi Arabia has agreed to attend the summit in Annapolis next week where a deal is still being sought that will restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians:
Saudi Arabia joined 14 other Arab nations on Friday in an agreement to attend the American-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md., next week, while Syria — the last key holdout — was inching closer toward agreeing to participate. The conference is not being universally welcomed. Many Israelis see Annapolis as a trap where once again, the Jewish state will be forced into a position of yielding more territory for a supposed "peace" that has so far proved elusive to achieve. And the draft statement that would come out of Annapolis isn't giving these critics any confidence in the outcome:
If Syria’s primary demand is met, that the conference also address the dispute over the Golan Heights, Syrian land that Israel has occupied since 1967, the conference could be the first chance in years to begin a dialogue aimed at a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
But it will get off to a chilly start — the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who said he would attend, made it clear there would be no handshake with Israeli officials.
In practical ways, the peace effort comes at a difficult time: the Palestinians are divided, with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip; Israel’s prime minister is relatively weak; and President Bush has little domestic political capital and is nearing the end of his tenure. But Arab leaders have taken the unusual step of uniting as one bloc — they are generally a politically divided lot — to accept a chance to address the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which they have long said is central to bringing calm to the volatile Middle East, and to helping ensure their own domestic security.
The decision to attend, issued by the Arab League, was a diplomatic victory for the United States and Egypt, which had pressed reluctant parties to participate.
But the Americans have shown themselves to be unworthy of Israel's trust. By refusing to acknowledge Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party's direct involvement in terrorism and indeed the direct involvement of his official Fatah "security forces" in terrorism, the Americans have shown that their benchmarks for Palestinian compliance with their commitments to Israel are not necessarily based on the reality on the ground. But Olmert, weakened by scandal and memories of Israel's poor performance against Hezb'allah in the 2006 war, sees Annapolis as a way to bolster Mahmoud Abbas who is far preferrable an alternative than Hamas in ruling Gaza and the West Bank. And George Bush, with one eye on history and the other on the clock, knows that this may be the final chance for the two parties to reach a consensus on how the final status of the "two states" will play out.
Then too, the US demands for wide-ranging Israeli security concessions to the Palestinians even before the "peace" conference at Annapolis have shown that Israel's security is of little concern to the State Department. IDF sources blame the shooting murder of Ido Zoldan on Monday night by Fatah terrorists on Israel's decision to bow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's demand to take down 24 security roadblocks in Judea and Samaria.
If it hadn't been for US pressure, they say, it is quite possible that the 29-year-old father of two small children would be alive today. But this is of no concern for Washington. As Rice has made clear repeatedly, the US wants to see "signs of progress." Since the Palestinians are taking no action against terror and doing nothing to lessen their society's jihadist fervor, the only way to achieve "signs of progress" is by forcing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. And so that is exactly what Rice and her associates are doing.