The Bush legacy of posturing defiance at the world, insulting nations, and creating chaos is not readily shaken off when it comes to organizing peace meetings. Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak is urging inclusion of Syria in the upcoming Annapolis conference, but the Syrian government has limited trust or confidence that anything worthwhile will come from a Bush initiative. According to its Ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, “We don’t seriously believe that this is a peace conference that will lead to anywhere. Forgive us if we deduce that this is only about a photo opportunity and about people in Washington D.C. telling their electorate, ‘look don’t accuse us of only starting wars, we’re working for peace in the Middle East.” Syria wants the issue of return of the Golan Heights placed on the agenda but Secretary Rice has stated that only the topic of Palestine-Israel issues will be discussed.
It may be unfortunate, but the prospects for the Bush administration actually achieving fruitful talks about Middle Eastern issues may never occur. There has been too much Bush rhetoric about evil nations and refusal to exert pressure on Israel to make changes for peace. President Abbas of the Palestinians is urging that an outcome of the meeting must be firm goals with timelines, but Prime Minister Olmert refuses to accept such outcomes. Perhaps, the Syrian ambassador is really on target– is the only rationale for meeting to provide another photo op?