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Hope does not always justify optimism

All he is say-ing… (via danny.hammontree, Flickr)

If it was only a photo-opportunity, it was a good one: At the Annapolis Peace Conference, US-President George W. Bush was able to announce new peace talks for the Middle East today. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas committed themselves to negotiate a peace treaty by the end of 2008.

How much is this announcement worth? First of all, symbolism matters: It sends a signal of hope around the world and especially to the Palestinian territories. One consequence is that a weakened Mr Abbas might be able to get back more authority and popularity at home, bringing Hamas’ reputation to a further low. The second symbolism is aimed at Iran: Internationally isolated (and in dissent internally), the Mullah regime has to look from the sidelines how one of its key allies Syria participate in talks with the arch-enemy Israel (even though via a rather low-ranking official).

But apart from sending a message, will the new negotiations really help bringing a solution? Still, Hamas is in a strong military position in Gaza and will not leave anytime soon, but the West is not willing to talk to them. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine Syria stopping to support the group; an incentive to do so would be quick negotiations about the status of the Golan Heights. While Syria itself is still undecided whether to talk to Israel, the Olmert-government has been under continuing pressure from the opposition at the Knesset in the last couple of weeks: Negotiations with its neighbours, its credo ran, should be dealt with from a position of strength. The only way for Mr Olmert to “sell a deal”(which would include, among other things, the division of Jerusalem) would be to create a certain enthusiasm for the idea among the Israeli people; since the Lebanon war, though, Israelis have become less than euphoric about the relationship to its neighbours.

With two weak leaders sitting at the negotiating table, the strength to find a compromise must come from outside: It will be the Bush administrations task to be a fairer broker than it has been over the last seven years. But the hardest part is – like always – reserved for the people of Palestine and Israel. Opening-up for a peaceful perspective might be the only way to back the negotiators – but it will be painful, especially as both countries‘ people have seen so many photo-ops that just paved the way for fruitless negotiations.

Ein Gedanke zu „Hope does not always justify optimism“

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