Condoleeza 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 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 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.