Defining ‘Success’ for the Annapolis Conference
Like most analysts, Peter Brookes sees little chance that the Annapolis Conference will solve the longstanding Arab-Israeli crisis. He does think, however, that it is already a resounding success.
The bulk of his column is devoted to the obstacles that will almost surely prevent much substantive change. Several major players have an interest in keeping the conflict going and the Palestinian government doesn’t even have the ability to speak for the Palestinian people, given the Hamas issue.
Still, Brookes is optimistic:
But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Look on the bright side: This week’s meeting is likely to restart a negotiation process that has been moribund for seven years.
In fact, all the major players will descend upon the Naval Academy this week – including Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader of the Arab world) and Syria, neither of which even has diplomatic relations with Israel. (Don’t hold your breath for an Israeli-Saudi handshake, though.)
Plus, the 22- nation Arab League gave its blessing to the conference at a Cairo meeting last week. (Hamas won’t attend, and is none too pleased with the Arab League’s “sellout” of the Palestinian cause.)
Condemning the talks as “useless,” Tehran sees the gathering as nothing more than its Mideast Muslim brethren collaborating with arch-foe Israel. Tehran also fears the formation of an US-Arab anti-Iranian alignment at Annapolis. It will certainly use its pull with Hamas and Hezbollah (which has also denounced the talks) to obstruct any progress on Middle East peace.
Iran is no doubt worried about Syria’s participation in the Annapolis meeting, too. The beginnings of a Syrian-Israeli rapprochement over the Golan Heights could weaken Tehran’s ties with Damascus – heck, even stabilize Lebanon.
Which points to how Annapolis is a success: Just getting more than 100 key players in the same room at the same time to talk peace is a real achievement.
Of course, the confab will only be the first play in a long, grueling game – but the “boos” from some in the stands are a pretty good sign of which side is losing in this matchup.
That’s rather thin gruel. Still, this is the Middle East. Progress is almost always made in baby steps, often followed by steps in the other direction. But, yes, getting all these people together for a common purpose is progress.