As Arabs and Israelis gathered in Annapolis to discuss issues related to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, tension was raised in the Gaza strip as Israel tanks and troops moved into the edges of the Hamas controlled area. There is talk of an Israel attack on Gaza to wipe out rocket launching sites once the Annapolis conference concludes. A reporter for The Independent spoke with ordinary Gaza citizens who are caught in a confusing middle between Hamas on one side and the Ramallah-based Fatah on the other side. Ami Ayub, who works in a cemetery that is desperate for cement, but can’t get it due to Israel restrictions, asked the question that was most probably on the minds of most of his neighbors, “After 15 years of negotiation, what are they going to do in a single day?” Farmers in the area are more concerned if they can get their strawberry crop across the line so their product can get sold. Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas militant, roared defiance, “Whoever gives up The Right of Return(for refugees) and Al Quds(Jerusalem) is not for us.” He emphasized that not “one inch” of palestinian land will be surrendered. In a nearby souvenir shop, a man was selling mugs that one could break if the Annapolis conference failed.
We can expect many mugs will be broken all over Gaza because there is scant likelihood anything significant will emerge from the Bush-Rice photo-op meeting. A meeting is most successful if preliminary work establishes the basis for what will be examined. It is doubtful if 40 nations can reach a conclusion about anything within a day. Meanwhile, the absence of Hamas from the session only leads to rhetoric about not surrendering an inch of land or of standing firm on the Right of Return for refugees. A few million refugees are not going to return to Israel any more than a million Jews are going to return to Arab nations from which they fled in the fifties. The issue of Jerusalem can be readily resolved, but questions concerning West Bank settlements are more complex and will require compromise. Too many Israelis and Palestinians refuse to accept the reality of negotiations– both sides must compromise if any solution is to be achieved.