Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Annapolis: First Reactions

If what we are getting is an agreement to talk further--and if we have a sense that between the Roadmap, the Riyadh initiative and other proposals on the table are all options to be considered--then I think the meeting will be considered a moderate success. If, judging from Prime Minister Olmert's remarks, there is a greater willingness to engage directly with Saudi Arabia as a major player in the peace process (and this fits in with my earlier posting about a more engaged Saudi diplomacy), this could be a significant step. But I am well aware that meetings can produce dramatic moments and then there is no follow-up.

I was concerned, however, about one statement made by Olmert, when he said, in addressing the Arab delegates: "There is quite a lot that separates us. There are memories, there is a heritage, that do not emanate from the same historical roots. We have different ways of living, different customs." Not to say there isn't a reality--but I would think that this would be the opportunity to stress the reality of Israel as a Middle Eastern state, part and parcel of the Levant, and not to emphasize differences.

Reuters has published some "rapid reaction" from Israelis and Palestinians, most of whom seem either pessimistic or downright negative about the prospects for finding an agreement.

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