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Process Minded

For a momentous event, Annapolis was singularly unmomentous. The cordiality between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas has long been a Middle East reality. Olmert understands that Palestine must come into existence and Abbas understands that Palestinian terrorism (now formally state-sponsored in Gaza) must be curtailed. And both seem prepared, however reluctantly or even fearfully, to broach the concessions that will most outrage their communities: a dilution of sovereignty in Jerusalem, for the Israelis, and a renunciation of the right of the displaced to return, for the Palestinians.

So what was so exasperating about the peace conference? For a start, it seemed to indicate that even George W. Bush, who once had a realistic grasp of what another Middle East peace process could not do, has changed his mind--and worse, decided that peace between Israel and the Palestinians holds a key to the mitigation of the extreme dangers that now bedevil the entire region. But the truth about the Middle East today is that the establishment of Palestine alongside Israel will calm the region very little. It is cunning of Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to portray their ideologies as animated primarily by a love of Palestine; but even a perfunctory study of their respective monstrosities shows this not to be the case. That is why it was perfectly risible to hear the Saudi foreign minister claim that "stagnation in the peace process has increased the appeal for extremist ideologies." After all, the most repercussive extremist ideology in the Middle East today was conceived in response not to Israeli occupation but to Saudi corruption.

Literally as we write, today is the sixtieth anniversary of the passage of the historic U.N. Partition Plan for Palestine. It is this document that gave international sanction for "a Jewish state" and "an Arab state" in that small territory where, alas, most of mankind's most fervent convictions were born. Six decades later, the Arab world is not yet ready to acknowledge that in the part of Palestine that is Israel there is a Jewish polity. For its part, Hamas has marked this milestone by calling for its recision.

Indeed, the most significant fact between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is now Hamas and its regime in Gaza; and, close behind, in ardent support, Hezbollah and its quasi-regime in Lebanon. The jokes about a "twostate solution" referring to Gaza and the West Bank are only darkly funny. What do the peace processors propose to do about Hamas and Gaza? Surely it will not be possible to make peace in perfect disregard of the Palestinian civil war, the outcome of which neither Israel nor the United States can determine. Is peace a necessity? Of course it is. But sometimes a necessity is also an impossibility. We hope for the best, but we expect the worst.

By The Editors