Yossi Melman at PostGlobal

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. Close.

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. more »

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Annapolis, Like Leaders, Weak and Insincere

The only true moment of sincerity at the Annapolis Summit was in a back room of the basketball arena where hordes of journalists from all over the world were sitting on flimsy folding chairs, waiting for something to happen.

In that room, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir – dressed in traditional robes and headdress – spoke to a select group of news people whom he had summoned. That was a kind of coded message not to admit Israeli journalists.

Nevertheless, I evaded his minders and leaned forward to hear what he had to say. It was impressive. His English is Oxford-quality eloquent. When he was asked why his boss, the foreign minister Prince Saud, had declared he would not shake hands with Israeli leaders, al-Jubeir replied that, "This is a serious event. This is not theatrics."

In a sense, he was right - but practically wrong. The Annapolis gathering was a non-event on a world scale. The earth was not shaken at the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday. It is more than doubtful that anything tangible will come out of the mountains of words that poured out of the conference, preaching peace.

I feel that it's too late to achieve peace before George W. Bush leaves office, as the participants promised to try to do.

But a thought did come to me: Imagine what would have happened had the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat still been alive. An even more ludicrous thought: Imagine it is now 1995 or 1996. Hamas has just launched its first lethal suicide attacks against Israeli buses. And Arafat does listen to Israeli strategists' advice to deal with Hamas with an iron fist.

Had all that happened, there might not be a need now for an Annapolis conference. Israel would probably have found a way to make peace with him. Instead, Arafat used Hamas as his back door channel to terrorism and as his hidden whip against Israel. He used "divide and rule" tactics and set his lieutenants against each other so no one would challenge him.

So when he died, of whatever disease, he left behind a divided Palestinian society. Hamas took advantage of that and eventually staged a successful coup in the Gaza Strip.

The official government, led by Mahmoud Abbas and celebrated by George Bush and most of the world, is weak and lacks the authority to reestablish its rule as sole representative of the Palestinian people.

At the same time, the government of Ehud Olmert – like most previous Israeli governments – is scared to death of initiating a dramatic, daring move to end the occupation.

The Saudi ambassador said that speeches made at the conference need to be matched by deeds. "The proof is in the pudding," he told us reporters. Once again, he was right. I don't believe that both sides (the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority) have the imagination, the vision, and the guts to deliver on the promises of Annapolis.

To make it come through, there is a need for two dramatic and probably traumatic events: a civil war among the Palestinians, in which hopefully the Abbas camp would crush the Hamas fundamentalists; and, on the Israeli side, dismantling settlements and moving 200,000 Jews now in the West Bank – probably sparking a mini-civil war.

The likely result would be fracturing of both societies.

The recipe for resolution has been around – on the table – for more than two decades. It is very simple: two states, end of occupation, dismantling of Jewish settlements, and a fierce fight against terrorism.

True leaders who are committed to the future of their nations might be ready and willing to do it for the sake of generations to come – to establish lasting peace. But Olmert and Abbas are not made of the right stuff for that.

And Big Daddy, President Bush, either does not believe in it or lacks the time and energy to force it on them.

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