Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This morning U.S. President George W. Bush will revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.

You will note from the following major press that the 50 nation event is long on intent and sentiment, and short on substance.

This author is doubtful of positive developments for two reasons.

1. State representatives in isolation are now known to be an insufficient cross-section of social leadership to positively advance ideals of peace and shared prosperity. Quite urgently and unequivocally powerful representatives of religions, at the very least must be involved in such negotiations and peace efforts. Beyond that leaders in several other non-governmental spheres are vital. These political shows, even when sincere, are like trying to build a house with only mortar, or only bricks. It is not a sufficiently broad cross-section of representative leadership.
2. It is the personal experience of this author that positive intent without overt review, shared understanding, and explicit agreement and commitment regarding substantial points of difference is actually a negative. The imagination of agreement (when sentiments touch) is a formula on a number of fronts for rapid breakdown into worse fracture.

It should be known by those reading the news of this conference that W's declaration was NOT empty platitudes. Something significant and of genuine substance WAS in the statement, and all should be aware of this. The US replaced the 4 previous, established monitors of the roadmap (US, EU, USSR, and UN ) with itself as the sole monitor of Israeli Palestinian efforts to collaborate. This too in the opinion of this author is a negative that invites further fracture among already fragile and deteriorating relationships. (Even US/EU relationships are heading toward horrible clash over the subprime assault on the dollar's value, and the EU Airbus cost calamity on the horizon).

So as not to present singular bias, or pure negativity, I include at the end of this list below of major media identifying vacuousness in the W launch, a link to WaPo writer, David Ignatius who argues positively for the results of Annapolis.

Voice of Amcerica

The announcement gave no indication of progress on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute such the status of Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees, and U.S. officials concede that the peace timetable announced by the leaders will be difficult to keep.

Los Angeles Times

As a result, a day that began with handshakes and hopes for peace ended with undispelled doubts over the prospect for success of the renewed effort to end decades of strife in the Middle East.

Despite statements of mutual support, the vague wording of the joint declaration signaled that the Israelis had emerged from the conference with more of what they wanted than the Palestinians. It also underscored the wide chasm separating the two sides as they begin trying to reach a deal.

The Guardian (London)

The Palestinian president and Israeli prime minister both pledged "good faith, bilateral negotiations," to secure a peace treaty by the end of 2008.

However, the Maryland conference has done little to dispel doubts about their ability to strike deals on the tough core issues of the conflict in the face of powerful domestic opposition.

The Boston Globe

But beyond the strong emotional statements - and a warm, lingering handshake on stage - there were few hints of agreement on substance, even after months of informal, face-to-face talks between the two men.


Abu Rudeina called the joint understanding a ``failure,'' foreshadowing how tough negotiations will be, and dismissed the significance of the statement read by Bush. ``We failed to conclude a document for the last three, four months,'' he said. ``We couldn't agree on one single point.''

David Ignatius - Washington Post

But in this case, I take the contrarian view: Something real did happen in Annapolis. The process that began Tuesday may not lead to peace, but that doesn't mean that Annapolis was simply a gaudy, empty show. A careful reading of the "Joint Understanding" that was announced by Bush reveals the achievements and the failures. I find several important steps forward:

David's article here


ant L said...

Thank you so much for your serious consideration of a very sincere effort to address some of the most important issues of our day.

I have been so distressed by the lack of in depth analysis I have seen, even in some "better" media outlets.

I thought the need to address the cultural aspects is true and would be ground breaking. JUST what we need - to get beyond the limitations of the exclusive national boundaries.

We are a global people, yet we need to recognize national identities while pioneering ways to utilize the cross-national cultural alliances that can truly afford commitment beyond the national boundary and interest. The development of these venues in meaningful diplomacy remains to be done.

Do you have any insight on how this can be introduced to such talks, or in other venues?

I also want to thank you for the inclusion of the Washington Post article; I usually do not read that newspaper, and was quite surprised as it made some very important points as well.

Annapolis has Arab state participation; though not universal, it is significant. Annapolis is the first time the Palestinian state is being seriously welcomed. These two points alone make our serious dialog and efforts to help very important.

Thanks again

Eugene said...

I agree with you that the problem is that this handshake takes place in a vexing vacuum. Individuals, even heads of states, can share some congeniality on stage. Bush is definitely friendly. In the presence of his affable personality this type of thing can happen. Unfortunately, they will go home to too many other personalities who were not at this party and who just won’t get it; those who watched on their TV screens in Jerusalem who don’t understand what the smiles were about. Bush remarked that he felt this time “peace is possible.” But those at home do not feel that possibility, because they did not experience it as the leaders did in Annapolis.

An interesting question was posed today to Pres. Bush by CNN Wolfe Blitzer; it went something like, “So what are you going to do in this peace process to make sure it happens?” I saw the President proffer no commitments on his part. He was merely sending the kids (Abbas and Olmert) off to their room to apologize to each other (read: follow the roadmap) before coming out again, while the kids were still arguing about whose room it really is.

Blitzer tried to draw out of Bush a commitment to go to Israel himself, to get directly involved in this process, because apparently Wolfe instinctually feels something more is needed. Probably, he knows too well, like all of us, that a handshake is far different than a hug. A peace process is far different than peace itself.

The weakness of the president’s response conveys the impracticality of this peace quest between these two leaders. Sons do not stop their vindictiveness without a parental hand who understands them both strongly leading them. Bush almost… looked like that parent. Unfortunately, this parental figure is not impartial regarding this conflict. I dare say that the five million Palestinians not at Annapolis would nod agreement.

For Bush to have credibility in this process, he does need to wear out some shoe leather. Go to Israel. Commit to this dear quest. Hear the raucous debate topics in person. Try pulling out the knives embedded in the stone hearts. I would love to have heard Bush say in answer to Blitzer, “I’m going to spend a lot of time in Israel. I’m planning on going several times in the next few months. In fact, my commitment to this goes beyond my presidency. I plan on staying there till this happens.”

That kind of impractical political statement is needed. The entire face of this agreement is political and, yet, as we all know, practical politics is dry. Bush even squinted a bit, as if this was going to be his legacy. But whoever the politician who seeks this as a legacy – peace in the Middle East – better leave his or her ego out of it, because it is going to take the commitment that goes beyond political conventions. The Palestinians and Israelis are too prone not to see right through such conventions.

I dreamt for a moment as I watched that stage with Bush and Olmert and Abbas. I wanted to see each of them introducing their pastor and rabbi and imam to join them on the stage, to ask for their prayers, for this sacred quest for peace must not be entered into without supplicating to the One that is the source of peace. Let kids get sent back to their room, but let men stand together as men.

Finally, this roadmap to peace could be such that on stage we do not see but three figureheads, we do not see the other bodies back stage, the many people behind the scenes who are praying for and building the bridges that will back up Olmert and Abbas and Bush in their huge undertaking. I pray those people will not be dismissed.

D'Arcy said...

Frank, Thank you so much for sending me the information on this meeting. I have been thinking about the meeting all week, and have been discussing the possibilities such a meeting could and couldn't mean with my High School students. I referred them to your blog. Thank you. I look forward to reading your blog more frequently.