Apologies to all my reader. I deserted the rooftop for a week or so in favour of greyer climes and richer food.
But there too (in Europe) as well as in Washington, Moscow, New York, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Gaza and the settlements of the West Bank, all the players are jostling for the most convenient positions in the run-up to the Annapolis peace conference that may or may not be held on November 26.
The official music coming out of both Washington and Brussels is that 'failure is not an option" . When asked if there was contingency plan if the talks didn't work out, State Department spokesman McCormack said "Plan B is to make Plan A work..." This sort of rhetoric might be good for western team building and perhaps also for motivating the parties to make real progress but taking a look around the arena from the vantage point of the (still hot) rooftop, the obstacles seem formidable. Here are a few scenarios for illustration:
- Annapolis will turn out to be nothing than a photo-op. The sides, more fearful of their own political constituencies than of failure, will be able to agree on only a vague declaration. The consequent negotiations on the specifics will quickly end in deadlock.
- Even assuming that negotiations are fruitful, internal opposition on both sides will block implementation. On the Palestinian side, Hamas will renew the civil war, while on the Israeli side, the government will collapse, and the settlers will mount massive protests.
The international community says that an agreement should not be forced on the sides and they might be right. But unless the Quartet, the Arab League and everyone else concerned is prepared to do some unprecedented arm twisting before, during and after Annapolis, the chances of success seem slight.
So, as you knew all along, failure, while not certain (miracles do happen), is not only an option but a likelihood. But Washington and Brussels are right when they say they don't need a Plan B. While the diplomats write impressive articles for the New York Times on what went wrong, the shit will be hitting the fan - here.