Currently, hopes for a lasting peace in Palestine and Israel are being placed on the shoulders of Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a conference at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The hope for this conference is that subjects such as the building of Israeli settlements, Israeli control of Jerusalem and control of water sources will be settled by the end of the Bush presidency in December 2008. In spite of such lofty goals, the actual chance of success in achieving a lasting compromise in any one of the discussed fields is virtually nonexistent.
Looking at the history of such talks, one can begin to understand why the rate of failure is so high and the rate of success so low. The first of such peace initiatives took place in 1967 after Israel had won a war against allied Arab militaries, in which Israel had gained a large quantity of land and control of Jerusalem. After the war, the UN Security Council declared Resolution 242, which stated Israel must withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict."
However, the imprecise wording of the resolution led the Israeli government to believe that this withdrawal was not applicable to all territories gained, where the Arab states argued that it was. Resolution 242 (despite its ambiguous wording) then became the basis for each subsequent and failed attempt at creating a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.
The next major attempt at establishing peace between Israel and Palestine took place in 1993 in Oslo, Norway. The Oslo negotiations took place between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. What made the Oslo negotiations unique was that this was the first time the two sides had negotiated and reached an agreement with no intermediaries.
The Oslo agreement was then signed and stated that the Israeli government would withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank (territories gained in the 1967 war) in stages, allowing Palestinian autonomy. In turn, the PLO would recognize that Israel has a right to exist in peace. However, due to the rejection of the Oslo agreement by both Israeli settler groups and Palestinian groups such as Hamas, violence continued and Oslo, the most promising of all agreements, fell through.
After constant negotiations and consistently failing to establish a long-term peace plan, it is no wonder that hopes for achieving success in Annapolis, to any degree, are low. Quite simply, this round of negotiations is guaranteed to fail because the preconditions set up by the conference are unfair and unrealistic.
Messrs. Olmert and Bush are only willing to deal with Mr. Abbas and his Fatah party — who now control the West Bank — yet are unwilling to deal with the democratically elected political group Hamas — who control Gaza — because they are viewed as terrorists by both America and Israel.
If Annapolis were a serious attempt at peace, all sides would have been engaged. It is understandable that Hamas is viewed as a threat to both peace and life in Israel, and it is very shortsighted, on the Palestinians' behalf, to have elected a party into office that both the reigning superpower and its closest ally have blacklisted. However, in negotiating only with those they approve of, Messrs. Olmert and Bush have sown the seeds of failure for any attempts at peace.
This new round of negotiations will not achieve a lasting peace or agreement of any kind, and that is the shameful reality of this whole sordid affair. Rather than really aim for grand ideals like coexistence and the preservation of life, each side has opted for the road most trampled and have decided that the way things were are the way things always have to be.
With Israel and the United States only willing to engage in dialogue with those who agree with them and the Palestinian voice caught between rage and concession, nothing can be expected to change. Many Israelis will have to die and many more Palestinians will have to die all because those involved at Annapolis are afraid of what true peace might look like.
Wasim Salman (email@example.com) is a senior majoring in international relations.