One day after the well-orchestrated show in Annapolis, Maryland, and the zillion words of commentary in the media about the “brave” or “expected” or “empty” speeches of the leaders (depending on who is doing commenting), it all boils down to three very simple facts:
1. Everybody knows what the deal will look like. Nothing in the main elements of a future agreement has changed (or can change) since Camp David 2000. So no speech can be “dramatic” or “brave” at this point in time. The problem is not the end result, it’s the following two points.
2. Neither of the two leaders – Olmert and Abbas – have enough political power in their respective constituencies to strike a deal, certainly not the kind of deal they alluded to (i.e. partition of Jerusalem and the renunciation of the Palestinian “right of return”). Olmert is busy keeping his fragile coalition together; Abbas is busy trying to prevent the Hamas from taking away any remaining vestiges of power he still clings to.
3. Nobody in the US administration (or the international community) has the will nor the power to do what is necessary: dive into the mud to extricate the feuding parties, bang their heads together and force them to get the deal signed. Certainly not in the timeframe Bush and Olmert spoke about (“within 2008”).
So, bottom line, I don’t expect much to come out of Annapolis. In fact, I didn’t even bother to watch or listen to the speeches; reading the headlines on the Web this morning was more than enough to figure out that plus ça change, etc. I obviously hope I’ll be proven wrong, but I doubt it very much.