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The Annapolis Conference

Condoleezza Rice is busy preparing her picnic at Annapolis that will start next Tuesday, November 26.  Nobody is quite sure who will come although almost everyone is quite sure that nothing much will happen.  Maybe a statement that will not really commit anyone to anything.  Following in the footsteps of the Clinton administration, the Bushies are giving their desperate all for some semblance of an Israeli-Palestinian accord, however vague.  And the Olmert government has cooperated in announcing that it will close down all the "illegal" outposts in the West Bank (these are two- or three-caravan bivouacs on hills adjoining some long-established settlements) and not permit any further expansion of villages and towns in the territory.  But this presumes that the Palestinians will be able to meet their part of the bargain, implicit or explicit: shut down the operations of the terror organizations, including especially those that exist and breathe under the aegis of Mahommad Abbas' Fatah, the so-called moderate camp.

I believe that Annapolis is a wasted effort, and that's because the Palestinian Authority cannot possibly produce what little to which it may have to commit.  The fact also is that, increasingly, sophisticated political people grasp that nothing much rides on the conflict between the Jewish State and the imagining of a Palestinian one.  In fact, the trash that Muslim hostility to the U.S. is drawn largely from U.S. support for Israel is the dogma of fewer and fewer Americans, of whom the paradigm is Zbigniew Bzrezinski.  Remember his last day in power was when Jimmy Carter was president.  Oh my!

Actually, nothing will change deeply for the U.S. in the region even if Israel would hand over to the West Bank to the Palestinians, with half of Jerusalem, to boot.  Yes, I believe that the Gaza calamity would, under these circumstances, be a prelude to the next one.

Tom Friedman made the point about the secondary status of the stand-off between the Israelis and the Palestinians in his Times column of November 18:  "After Iraq and Pakistan, the most vexing foreign policy issue that will face the next president will be how to handle Iran."  Is this a slight to Israel's importance in the region?  Not at all.  One fact this reflects is what the important Arab allies worry about and, believe me, it's not the Palestinians.