Talks, promises no longer enough; timetables, actions are key to peace by Susie Becher
Hardly a day goes by without some new twist in the preparations for the Annapolis conference, and speculation is rife on whether it will end in success or failure. The Israeli prime minister is trying to lower expectations, emphasizing that it is not a peace conference but a starting point for negotiations toward a peace accord. The Palestinian president has his eye on the day after Annapolis. …
All the key players want to put on a good show for their respective audiences and know the cost of a flop. They will take to the stage with their lines well rehearsed and – supported by extras from the Arab League – will lock arms as they take their collective bow at the end. The curtain will fall, and only then will the real drama begin.
In his speech before the Saban Forum, Prime Minister Olmert stressed his commitment to negotiations. Ongoing negotiations, in the words of the prime minister; open-ended negotiations, if he has his way. Olmert is insistent that there be no timetable, although he has said that he hopes to sign an agreement by the end of President Bush’s term. Note that the operative term here is sign, not implement. Deputy Premier Haim Ramon has suggested that the talks should begin with the broader issues on which there is agreement, leaving the disagreements for a later stage. Ramon appears to have learned nothing from Oslo, and all the talk about talking leads one to suspect that the Israeli government is studying a different history lesson.
Shortly after his defeat in the 1992 elections, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who headed the Israeli delegation to the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, was quoted in a Ma’ariv interview as admitting that his intention had been to drag out negotiations with the Palestinians for a decade while continuing to strengthen the Jewish presence in the occupied territories.
Although he was not the one to accomplish it, Shamir’s plan to talk and build has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. When he left office there were just over 100,000 settlers in the West Bank; today, they number close to 270,000. As they went from Madrid to Oslo to Wye River to Camp David to Sharm el-Sheikh, successive Israeli governments have talked, talked, talked and built, built, built. Click here for entire article at Ynet News by Susie Becher, a member of the Meretz-Yahad party national executive.