Political commentators have been parsing George Bush's words at
Annapolis.  They were eloquent and realistic, and they did not force Israel
into concessions before the negotiations with the Palestinians even began.

Mohammed Abbas' remarks were designed -- I guess, understandably -- to
cover his back, quite literally.  He did his litany of Palestinian demands
only some of which he might be able to fulfill.  But, in a gesture of
comity, he acknowledged Ehud Olmert's particular efforts to understand the
Palestinian condition.

Maybe it's predictable.  But I thought Olmert's speech especially
poignant, not only in his telling the Zionist narrative, but also in his
empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians:

I wish to say, from the bottom of my heart, that I know and acknowledge the fact that alongside the constant suffering which many in Israel have experienced because of the history, the wars, the terror and the hatred towards us -- a suffering which has always been part of our lives in our land -- your people have also suffered for many years, and some still suffer.

For dozens of years, many Palestinians have been living in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew, wallowing in poverty, neglect, alienation, bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of deprivation. I know that this pain and deprivation is one of the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred towards us.

We are not indifferent to this suffering. We are not oblivious to the tragedies you have experienced. I believe that in the course of negotiations between us we will find the right way, as part of an international effort in which we will participate, to assist these Palestinians in finding a proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state which will be established in the territories agreed upon between us. Israel will be part of an international mechanism which will assist in finding a solution to this problem.

This will put him into deep and ferocious waters with the ultra-right in
Israel, some of whom are in his coalition.

Now, it must be said that there was a Saudi delegation in attendance,
without whose presence the Palestinian mustering of their cousins would
have looked hollow.  And it was the long-serving foreign minister who came,
a son of the king, no less.  His conditions for attending weren't at all
forthcoming: that he not be put in a position where he would be obliged to
shake Olmert's hand or exchange words with him.

The Syrians also arrived at Annapolis, with their deputy foreign minister
as head of the delegation.  Why didn't they send the traffic commissioner
of Damascus?  Here is a regime obsessively destabilizing Lebanon whose
independence it has never recognized.  A regime that has been charged, more
or less, by the Security Council with the murder of Rafik Harari.  That is
Iran's patsy in the region.  A tyranny for as long as anyone living can
recall.  And it sends its deputy foreign minister.  Assad is stupid.  Only
the Arabs mentioned the Golan.