Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh My Goodness, Hamas Won?

In case anyone needs to know why the Annapolis talks are DOA, the previous statement uttered by Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice should clear up any doubt. This statement was uttered by Ms. Rice in response to the news that after the Palestinian elections she helped to usher in the Hamas faction had won the majority of seats. I remember from my pre-law days the admonition of one of my professors, “Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to”. You would never schedule a democratic election, if you can’t guarantee the democratic results. Neither should you setup a final peace conference, if you don’t have any final peace agreement.

Nearly seven tumultuous years later, Ms. Rice, as secretary of state, has led the Bush administration to a startling turnaround and is now thrusting the United States as forcefully as Mr. Clinton once did into the role of mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians. The culmination of her efforts occurs this week in Annapolis, Md., as Mr. Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, meet to set the outlines of a final peace agreement before the end of Mr. Bush’s term.[1]

These talks have a snowballs chance in hell of creating any long-term peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Prior to a conference on this scale there has been behind the scenes negotiations that have ironed out the language and details of the agreement, to my knowledge there have been no such meetings. Without the proper groundwork what could she possibly hope to accomplish? The answer of course is nothing this is just another one of this administrations dog and pony shows where there is all sizzle and no substance.

There has been no movement on either side on the major issues that divide both sides, namely the borders and the refugee questions. There has been no movement on the roadmap. You have the majority of Palestinians supporting Hamas who was not invited to the conference, so what can you hope to accomplish without one of the major parties being present? If this weren’t so important and tragic, it would be almost hilarious. Ms. Rice has never been willing to push Israel enough to get a comprehensive agreement with enough concessions to make it palatable to the Palestinians. Just the fact that they are negotiating with a wounded Prime Minister from Palestine shows the desperation of Ms. Rice and this administration to be known for more than the Iraq war debacle.

Many other Middle East experts remain unconvinced as well, particularly since the failure so far of the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a joint statement to come out of the 40-nation conference has forced Ms. Rice to recast Annapolis as the start rather than the end of negotiations. Critics say she is organizing little more than an elaborate photo opportunity.[2]

So it seems rather than produce any meaningful agreement, this administration in the person of Ms. Rice is content to present a charade for the cameras and the US media. It will give everyone cover for continuing the status quo. We will have plenty of pictures of serious looking diplomats discussing the seriousness of peace in the Middle East, followed by a joint statement of nothingness by all parties, vowing to continue seeking peace. Once the cameras have been turned off, there will be a continuation of business as usual. There is too much invested for all concerned in maintaining the status quo, Abbas has no mandate outside of what Israel and the US gives him, Olmert does not have the political muscle to secure major concessions especially with the Palestinians being fractured, and the US has its hands full with Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran on the horizon, the other Arab states just need to look like they are seeking peace and justice for the Palestinians to keep their populations stable. The only ones seeking peace have no power to bring it about.

For Ms. Rice, Annapolis reflects her evolution from passive participant to activist diplomat who has been willing to break with Mr. Cheney and other conservatives skeptical of an American diplomatic role in the Middle East. Mr. Cheney argued with Ms. Rice against a pivotal Middle East speech that Mr. Bush gave in 2002 in the Rose Garden, fought her on a host of other issues, including Iran and North Korea, and today surrounds himself with senior advisers dubious about the Annapolis meeting.[3]

Condoleezza Rice has no serious backing in the administration for this effort. The President is vague and not invested and the Vice-President is totally not onboard. It appears that this is just Mr. Bush offering a token concession to Ms. Rice for her loyalty and their friendship. His position does not appear to have changed from early in his first term, where he did not feel obliged to become entangled in the whole Middle East peace process. Peace and negotiations are messy and tiresome, it’s not the cowboy way. Cowboys kick butt, cowboys do regime change and invasion. Negotiations are for weaklings and sissies, not tough guys like Bush and Cheney.

So let’s give a toast to Condi Rice and all the other dignitaries who will be getting face time on television and the cable news talking heads, but in the end, “oh my goodness, Hamas still won…”

[2] Ibid.

No comments:

HTML stat tracker