Today marks the beginning of the Annapolis conference which supposedly will deal with issues related to resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. After seven years of doing very little about this issue, President Bush is now claiming a great interest in resolving a complex problem. His failure to push hard on the Israel government in order to obtain an agreement regarding establishing key issues on the agenda or to clarify a timetable to attain goals has placed a damper on the meeting. The Saudi foreign minister has already indicated he won’t even shake the hands of Israel representatives. Part of the problem in accomplishing anything is the president’s lack of knowledge regarding historical developments in the region or understanding the desires and needs of Palestinian leaders. According to Flynt Everett, who was a key advisor to Condi Rice, he was at a 2002 meeting at which Bush stated that once Palestine had a democratic government its leaders would cease making a fuss about borders or its desire for control of east Jerusalem.
The reality of this conference is the inability of President Abbas to make broad decisions since Hamas controls Gaza and the lack of political leverage for Prime Minister Olmert who confronts hostile groups in West Bank settlers and religious leaders. The prospect is a more likely wonderful time for photographs of smiling people, but it is doubtful if Bush will proclaim “Mission Accomplished” after this conference.