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Annapolis - a framework for further conflict
IT IS hard to imagine an international peace conference that could come up with less. The only end agreement of the one-day Annapolis meeting in the US, was to create a 'framework' for Israeli-Palestinian talks, with the US as chief mediator, and the aim of concluding the talks by the end of 2008.
With no element of agreement on the core issues, the main triumph of the event was said to be the assembling of the largest number of worldwide delegations ever, 55, in the history of Israel-Palestine talks. Around 1,000 press people also attended.
Taking place in the same week as the 60th anniversary of the UN partition plan that called for the creation of Israel, the conference aimed to "bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict".
The status quo is not seen as an option by the Israeli regime, as it faces a future of controlling a total land area which would end up with a minority Jewish population - so negating the raison d'Ítre of Israel. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert summed this up at the end of the conference by saying: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished".
For US imperialism as well as the Israeli regime, another urgent reason to start new talks is their desire to counter Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, all not invited to Annapolis.
To avoid unwanted concessions, previous Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon refused to negotiate with Palestinian Authority president Mahmood Abbas. But when a worse enemy for Israel and the US came on the scene in the form of the elected Hamas Palestinian government, they regarded Abbas as much the lesser evil and felt driven to negotiate with him and to try to bolster his position generally.
The declared starting point for new negotiations is the failed 'road map' of 2003. The first phase of the map was developing Palestinian state institutions, ending Palestinian rocket and other attacks and ending Israeli settlement expansion and 'illegal' outposts. But there are even more obstacles now to these initial aims than there were in 2003.
The Israeli army continues assassinating Palestinians in the territories - 20 were killed during the week of the Annapolis event - which means the Palestinian rocket fire will continue in response. And it is harder for the Israeli government to make concessions following its 2005 'withdrawal' from the Gaza strip, as rocket fire from the strip continued and Hamas was elected - with whom the Israeli government is unwillingly to cooperate. In addition, the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war weakened Olmert and those around him.
Olmert is even presently refusing to stop expansion of Jewish settlements. He pledges only to stop creating new ones, though that is a promise broken by Israeli ministers many times.
As for developing the Palestinians' institutions, this is the task given to Tony Blair, well known for starting bloody wars rather than laying the basis for peace. His current 'achievements', such as a planned completion of a sewage plant in north Gaza, might at any stage be obliterated in Israeli bombing raids.
The 2008 US presidential election is also a factor in the coming talks, as the candidates of both the US Republicans and Democrats do not want to be seen as supporting any policies against the interests of the Israeli regime.
Far from peace, greater violence could break out, just as the failed Camp David talks were followed by the second intifada. There is particular desperation in the Gaza strip, where 80% of Gazans are now living off aid. Only 50 to 60 aid trucks are being allowed into the strip each day at present, compared to over 100 in August and over 750 in 2005.
In opinion polls, over 70% of Israelis said the Annapolis conference would not advance the prospect of peace and over 60% of Palestinians expected it to fail. 75% of Israelis said they have no confidence in Olmert (who is presently undergoing three separate corruption investigations by police).
There is a high level of mistrust towards all the main parties in both Israel and the territories. As time goes on, with all these parties proving themselves incapable of bringing about peace, security and decent living standards, there will inevitably be a growing number of people who become receptive to the idea of a socialist alternative.
It will only be on the basis of the growth of socialist ideas - of decisions being taken out of the hands of capitalist and aspiring capitalist elites - that the cycles of despair and bloodshed will be ended.
In The Socialist 6 December 2007:
Workplace news and analysis
What we think
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Post Office and CWU