Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dennis Ross, the Middle East and the Fate of Annapolis

Dennis Ross spoke yesterday at a small group seminar at the Council on Foreign Relations. The conversation itself is off the record, but the ambassador at several points cited his forthcoming article in The National Interest.

I thought, for the benefit of TWR readers, I would excerpt what he has to say about the upcoming Annapolis conference in his "Mesopotamian Muddle":


And we should not underestimate Saudi Arabia's role in the upcoming international meeting on Middle East peace. Without their involvement, the international meeting is likely to look no different than previous meetings involving the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians--meetings that have been held often and produced little. ... This meeting, which President Bush announced with such fanfare, wil not take care of itself. Secretary Rice must negotiate clear understandings in advance. The details of the agenda must be worked out and not left to chance; the terms of reference must be understod the same way by all the attendees; the steps that will follow the meeting must be agreed upon beforehand. None of this will be accomplished in a meeting or two ...


Claude Salhani notes at UPI:

The complexity of the issues associated with the Palestinian question simply renders the logistics involved in any mediation time-consuming. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her fifth trip to the region since June. Henry Kissinger, when he was the top U.S. diplomat, undertook 36 visits to Damascus and an equal number to Israel in a single month in order to reach a breakthrough on the Golan.

Former advisor to P.M. Barak Yossi Alpher contends that what Ambassador Ross is advising happen with regard to Annapolis is not occurring, that this is a--in my words--a "hail Mary" pass rather than a meeting with well-defined parameters. As a result, "the real danger here is precisely that the unwinding of this conference - its cancellation, failure, or endorsement of a weak statement that in any case cannot be acted upon by Abbas, Olmert and Bush - will accelerate the negative dynamics in the region."

Ross concludes that the secretary of state "must engage in intensive statecraft if the upcoming November international meeting is to contribute to the president's stated objective for it." But the clock is ticking.

There's going to be no careful legwork done prior to the meeting. Its going to be a wing and a prayer and it is going to fail. Perhaps that is the goal all along.
Who's going to impose a settlement. A weak Israeli PM, a Palestinian who can't control his territory, a lameduck US president? Recipe for disaster.
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