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Commentary Last Updated: Oct 10th, 2007 - 01:42:29

Peace summit: Historic moment or big yawn?
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 10, 2007, 01:39

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Isn�t it wonderful? Aren�t you simply brimming over with excitement that the US has finally got its act together and organized a Middle East peace summit? All the big cheeses will be there from Russia, China, France, Britain, Spain, Greece, Japan, Canada and Indonesia. Egypt, Jordan and the GCC states have been invited and so has Turkey.

That dove of peace and goodwill, Condoleezza Rice, is handling arrangements. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sounds enthusiastic. What�s that? You�re rolling your eyes?

Frankly speaking, unless you�re a chronic naysayer or a terminal pessimist, who can blame you when the much trumpeted Oslo came to naught while the only road map around was one that led to Baghdad.

Still, the past isn�t always an indicator of the future and, this time, with the right set of attitudes on the part of involved parties the tide could finally turn. But wait! Most involved parties won�t even be there.

Hamas, for instance, has been kept entirely out of the loop and its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, calls on Arab nations to boycott the summit. Understandable perhaps when Gaza is strangled, bombarded, starved and faced with the prospect of a massive Israeli military onslaught.

Remember that Hamas was the party overwhelmingly elected to form a government and although today it only holds sway over a large open-air prison, it still retains a substantial following.

This marks this peace summit as unusual. It seems that the US and Israel desire to make peace only with their friends and allies. Sounds like an oxymoron? It is.

It�s true that Syria and Lebanon have been invited but only in a limited capacity as members of an Arab League panel with a limited scope for discussions.

If Syria doesn�t go, it�s doubtful Lebanon will and, in any event, the Siniora government wouldn�t be able to promise anything without a nod from most major Lebanese parties, including Hezbollah.

And what about Iran? If it has as much influence upon Hezbollah and Hamas as the West alleges, then it should be invited too.

Another obstacle is the preconditions that are being imposed even before talks begin.

Syria says it will decline unless the return of the Golan is up for discussion. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demands a framework on such issues as Jerusalem, water rights, the right of return, and the dismantling of Jewish settlements.

On the other hand, Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, is thinking in terms of a flimsier statement of intent. Tellingly he refers to Abbas as his �new partner in Ramallah."

Indeed, his new Ramallah partner is just about the only leader bursting with enthusiasm. Abbas optimistically believes a peace treaty is achievable within six months. Perhaps nobody has told him that a treaty without the participation of Gaza, Syria and Lebanon won�t be worth the paper it�s written on.

Come on folks! What�s this really about?

Personally, I feel it�s little more than a PR exercise to put the US, Israel and Fatah into the �good guys� camp while further isolating everyone else. Representatives from around the world will be there to give it legitimacy, and even if nothing comes out of it, Bush, Olmert and Abbas would be in the position to trumpet their own saintly intentions and, thus, elevate their status with their respective constituents.

In reality, the trio would be far better employed working to cement Palestinian political factions so that there is a Palestinian partner who represents all Palestinians, not just some who live on the West Bank. This, they haven�t even attempted to do.

Or, there could be something even more sinister going on. The summit could be an attempt by the US to woo their friends in the region to get on board yet another of their nefarious plans.

If you recall, George W. Bush announced the road map -- albeit with pursed lips -- during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Then once the deed was done, it seems he was attacked by amnesia. If this is, indeed, the case, then it�s little wonder that the Arab world is generally unimpressed. Once bitten twice shy.

The bottom line is this. If the US and Israel are serious about achieving peace, there�s a perfectly good strategy already on the table -- the Arab peace initiative first proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002.

It has the backing of all Palestinians as well as all Arab nations. It�s a comprehensive peace plan that would provide Israel with security and the region with prosperity in one fell swoop; yet, oddly, it�s been virtually ignored by the main players.

This would entail Israel�s withdrawal behind 1967 borders in keeping with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, agreeing to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and negotiating a just solution for Palestinian refugees. Israel would lose a little land that doesn�t belong to it in the first place but, overall, it�s a win-win situation for Israelis.

Unfortunately, though, that may not be a win-win situation for Washington. If everything in the Middle East garden were lovely, the region could one day decide US bases and warships were no longer welcome.

So tune into your news networks on Nov. 26 when the summit is scheduled to be held at a US naval academy in the city of Annapolis, near Washington. Think I�ll stick to Desperate Housewives!

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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