Annapolis: Drive By Photo Op or Better Late than Never

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

As today's Middle East summit/conference/meeting/tailgate (pick your favorite descrption) in Annapolis comes to a close, nearly 50 delegations will have trekked from Washington to the state capital of Maryland to listen to speeches and witness handshakes, and fill Condi's scrapbook with another set of favorite photo ops.

Good feelings, sure. Skepticism, surely justified!

But the day after will be more important than the day itself.

Without overindulging an undeserving Bush Administration (which considered Middle East peacemaking akin to sewer cleaning), the gathering places another milestone in the long trek between one U.S. - sponsored Middle East initiative to the next. But to what end? Will it fulfill its billing; namely to jumpstart consistent and progressive negotiations between Israel and Palestinians by establishing concrete next steps? The regal nature of the Annapolis festivities will surely give way to the cruel realities of the Middle East. When Abbas and Olmert return to Ramallah and Jerusalem respectively, the U.S. cannot let each party define for itself what strategy will transform good words into positive deeds. Otherwise, the process will be stillborn once again.

Bush committed his personal prestige to oversee a resumption of the Road Map. Arab states must do the same. If the so-called Saudi peace initiative is to have any meaning to it, then the Saudis are going to have to demonstrate a willingness to help incubate what emerges from Annapolis, and use the upcoming Arab League summit in Damascus to begin replicate what commenced in Annapolis.

The real, juicy stories out of Annapolis have yet to emerge:

1. What did Bush and Olmert discuss about Iran?
2. Did the Israelis have a sidebar with their Syrian counterparts?
3. What did Bush commit to actually do to satisfy Arab skeptics.

Tune in tomorrow.

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