Here we go again
by Salim Mansur
The upside about the Mideast conference to be hosted by the Bush administration at Annapolis, Md., is the low expectation of all parties for any dramatic breakthrough to bring to an end the Palestinian-Israeli dispute over land and refugees prior to establishing the Palestinian state.
The downside is predictable. Failure on the part of the United States to meet the one-sided Palestinian demands -- by leaning on Israel -- without any assurance or evidence that Palestinians cease supporting terrorism, will be grist for terrorists, their supporters and apologists in the region.
The plain truth about such Mideast conferences is the ganging up of the Arab states against Israel as a show of verbal force on the diplomatic front to compensate for their miserable record on wars they have precipitated with the one lonely outpost of democracy in their midst.
For anyone with a sense of Mideast history, there is irony in the timing of the Annapolis conference.
This month marks several anniversaries for Arabs and Jews. It was 90 years ago in November 1917 that Britain, through the Balfour declaration, committed itself to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Finally, 30 years ago in November 1977, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt visited Jerusalem, addressed the Israeli Knesset, and opened negotiations with Prime Minister Menachem Begin resulting in the peace accord between Egypt and Israel.
At any time during this period the Arab states could have acknowledged the rights of Jews to a state in Palestine, accepted the UN resolution on partition, negotiated the details of coexistence, assisted the Palestinians with their state, and received support of the great powers, including the United States, in meeting the needs of their people and bringing prosperity to the region given the resources available.
But the Arab position was a resounding "three nos" as duly spelled out after the over-reaching ambition of the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and his supporters crashed in the humiliating defeat of the June 1967 war: No peace and no negotiation with and no recognition of Israel.
The great lie repeatedly told in the Mideast, and swallowed whole or in part in the West, is that the United States' unconditional support for Israel stands in the way of just peace in the region.
What is implicit in this lie is the meaning of just peace. For the Arab and Muslim supporters of Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaida and the Iranian acolytes of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, just peace requires the rollback of Israel and returning Jews to the secondary status of "dhimmi" (protected people) as provided by Islamic laws when Arabs were empire builders.
Until and unless there is a change of mind and heart among Palestinians and Arabs as demonstrated by president Sadat in acknowledging the Jews as equal partners, and reconciling with Israel, public diplomacy as arranged for Annapolis will remain an illusory exercise in which Arab states one-sidedly seek American appeasement and Israeli concessions as vindication of their rightness.