U.S.-prompted peace talks may not be answer

Editorial

Considering the discouraging history and circumstances, it was an accomplishment to get representatives from 40 countries, including most of the relevant Arab nations, to sit down for a day just to talk about the possibility of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

And if the real point was to use the meeting to give Sunni Arab countries a chance to be together and brainstorm about how to deter Iran, perhaps the meeting was a success.

While it is encouraging there will be frequent meetings between Israelis and Palestinians over the next year, the likelihood of a formal peace agreement emerging from this process is slim. While Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority promised these get-togethers would discuss the “core issues” that separate the two sides, the vague statement they released didn’t even name those issues.

Among others, there are deep disagreements over the final border between two states, the status of Jerusalem, whether Palestinian refugees can return to former homes inside Israel, whether Israel will be recognized as a “Jewish state,” and what the Palestinian
Authority should do to control terrorism. These are all potential deal-breakers.

It was to be expected that Hamas, which was not invited to the meeting but controls Gaza, would sponsor rallies in Gaza to protest the meeting. But anti-Annapolis and anti-Abbas rallies took place on the West Bank, which Abbas’ party nominally controls. And opposition
Likud party members denounced Israeli Prime Minister Olmert as a sell-out simply for attending the meeting.

These protests underline the weakness of the two leaders, which leads to questions as to whether they can cajole their own peoples into accepting the compromises any lasting agreement would entail.

Many commentators believe active involvement by the U.S. is essential. We question that. If the two sides will compromise only if prodded by the U.S, that’s a sign they’re not really ready for formal agreements.

Still, talking every two weeks for a year can’t be all bad.