The Daily Star (Editorial)
November 26, 2007 - 1:04pm

Many flaws have been identified in the organization of the Middle East peace conference this week at Annapolis, in the US state of Maryland. Arab officials, in particular, harbor deep-seated fears that their participation may be used as cover for a gathering that fails to achieve anything of substance toward settling the dispute at the core of the region's troubles, that between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Surveys indicate that ordinary Palestinians, meanwhile, have grown tired of the seemingly endless diplomacy that promises statehood, only to deliver continued occupation.

On its face, Annapolis is indeed a shaky enterprise. Critics note that until this venture, US President George W. Bush appeared to have made ignoring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a key pillar of his foreign policy. Having botched so many other endeavors in the region, he was also suspected of having concluded that it was better not to try anything else that might end in yet another failure, especially given the thorny issues that Annapolis will start trying to resolve. In the twilight of his presidency, Bush looked increasingly unlikely to undertake such a complicated mission.

Surprising though it may seem, however, the much-maligned president has actually succeeded on a couple of key points. More than three dozen countries and organizations have agreed to take part in the Annapolis conference, including all-important players Syria and Saudi Arabia: Reviving the peace process without them would have been a fool's errand. In addition, the run-up to the talks has enabled Palestinian and Israeli officials to build something like a working relationship: Doors have been opened, in other words, that were closed for years.

Enough has been written about the local intractability of the conflict and the innumerable international obstacles to its resolution. Satisfying all of the stakeholders will be impossible unless all accept the necessity of compromise. All the same, a willingness to try will be the first prerequisite to any effort that eventually succeeds. George W. Bush has now met that standard: In Annapolis having got this far, there is finally evidence that he has decided the potential benefits of success - and their likelihood - outweigh the possible drawbacks of failure. No one knows what will come of this conclusion, but he deserves congratulations for having reached it.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017