Condi’s folly in Annapolis

Haaretz reports on the Israeli military intelligence view of the upcoming Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, which are slated for November 26: Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence believes that the U.S-sponsored summit is likely to fail, and that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas might step down as a result. […] As Haaretz reported a ...

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598265_071107_rice_05.jpg
JERUSALEM - NOVEMBER 4: (ISRAEL OUT) In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on November 4, 2007 at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel. Rice is meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make final preparations for the Annapolis peace summit scheduled to take place later this month. (Photo by Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images)

Haaretz reports on the Israeli military intelligence view of the upcoming Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, which are slated for November 26:

Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence believes that the U.S-sponsored summit is likely to fail, and that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas might step down as a result. [...]

As Haaretz reported a few weeks ago, MI believes the chances for success at Annapolis are "close to nil."

Haaretz reports on the Israeli military intelligence view of the upcoming Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, which are slated for November 26:

Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence believes that the U.S-sponsored summit is likely to fail, and that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas might step down as a result. […]

As Haaretz reported a few weeks ago, MI believes the chances for success at Annapolis are “close to nil.”

These MI guys are the ultimate, hardboiled realists. If they see the odds of success as “close to nil,” they’re probably on the money. Gideon Lichfield, Jerusalem correspondent for The Economist, comments on his personal blog:

Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images

[T]he only one really interested in this [summit] any more is Condi Rice.

One source tells me they will hold the summit without any joint declaration on the substantive issues, merely an agreement on the negotiating process to follow it. That might be so — this source has been right before — but it might just be too embarrassing for everyone concerned. It would especially embarrass Abbas, who has been pretty categorical about how he won’t turn up unless Israel makes concrete promises.

And the most foolish-looking would be Rice herself. She has been pushing Annapolis as the answer to America’s problem of how to increase Abbas’s legitimacy, which is America’s strategy for its broader problem of how to weaken Islamist movements like Hamas. If Abbas caves in and comes to a meaningless summit it will do nothing for his legitimacy or America’s policy goals (which I think are quite warped, but that’s another matter).

So I still wouldn’t rule out some kind of breakthrough as the date gets closer. But given the limited pressure that Rice is willing or able to apply to either [Israeli PM Ehud] Olmert or Abbas, it will be a minimal breakthrough designed not to bring peace but to save face: Rice’s face, first and foremost.

Ouch. And it’s not just Abbas whose neck could be on the line. Olmert is struggling to beat back a reputation for corruption. He also faces a serious challenge from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is carving out political space to Olmert’s right and seems eager to torpedo Rice’s summit. Olmert has admittedly lasted a lot longer than I thought he would and the Israeli economy is humming, but it’s hard to imagine him fending off his rivals for too much longer. If the summit does fail and fighting breaks out again, his party might well decide to finally get rid of him. And the increasingly hawkish Barak is in a great position to take maximum advantage.

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