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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Annapolis conference - as scheduled

As an AP article in the Washington Post tells us: Invites Set for Mideast Conference. The conference is set for a week from today, November 27. That settles the hash of those who spread rumors that it was to be postponed, though one doubts that any of them will say, "Gee, I was wrong."
At this point, it is not clear what may be accomplished at this conference, and what the "flavor" will be. We may get an idea from the invitation list: 
The U.S. has already said the 13 nations that make up the Arab League's "follow-up committee" on a broad Arab-Israeli peace settlement are to be invited.
Aside from the Palestinians and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, the committee members are Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen...
Others expected to be invited include the members that, with the United States, make up the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers _ the United Nations, European Union and Russia. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will also be asked to attend in his capacity as the quartet representative to the Palestinians.
Invitations may also go to select European states with a past role or interest in Mideast peacemaking such as France, Germany and Britain, along with G8 economic powers that were not covered by other invitations, such as Canada, Japan and Italy.
A gathering that will include the Secretary General of the UN, EU representatives, thirteen Arab states and Russia is not likely to be overly friendly to Israel. In large part, this meeting was catalyzed by the reaffirmation of the Arab peace initiative at the recent Arab League peace summit. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took the Arabs at their word, and they were taken - aback. Now they are going to meet on Friday to decide on their attitudes to the conference. What if they all decide they aren't coming??  
Unfortunately, this has all the earmarks of "not serious." One would expect that a serious attempt to tackle the Middle East conflict would take months of serious preparation, with invitations sent well in advance. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was at his diplomatic best:
"I think this international conference in Annapolis will be a good beginning of a credible process to resolve all these issues," Ban told reporters in New York on Monday. "At the same time, I'd like to see that the participants ... base their expectations on a more practical and realistic assessment."
In other words, don't expect anything. 
Ami Isseroff

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