My colleagues David Ignatius and Rami Khouri both point out the significance of the U.S. becoming "judge and jury" of the road map in the wake of Annapolis, while Fareed Zakaria sees the whole thing as part of the fight against Iran. Daoud Kuttab and Khouri both bristle at the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish state, and at implied American support for it.
While I think that my colleagues have touched on all the key points, I would shuffle them differently. First, David is right that appointing the U.S. as the compliance judge is a significant Israeli concession. This is so because presidents will only get into the nitty-gritty of this when it’s too late, so in effect the State Department will be the judge, and their tendency will be to be tough on Israel and easy on Palestinians.
For all the talk that the U.S. will never ask Israel to compromise on security, in fact the U.S. State Department tries to do just that all the time, as if we have not seen time and again that the result of easing the pressure on the terrorist infrastructure will be – absent a true Palestinian commitment to crush terrorism – more dead Israelis and Palestinians.
On the Jewish state issue, I don't know if my Palestinian friends genuinely misunderstand why this is so critical to Israelis, or if they understand and are resistant anyway. My most recent column explains why recognition of a Jewish state is so critical in light of the myriad ways the Arab world still denies Israel's right to exist. And this editorial explains why the Arab world's refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state shows that its claims to have recognized Israel's right to exist are a sham.
I appreciate that all this may seem paranoid to my Palestinian friends. But if you were surrounded by people who have been saying for a century that you have no right to exist, that they have every right to move to your country, that you do not exist as a people, and that you have no history in the land that they claim to be completely theirs, you might be paranoid, too.
Lastly, Fareed is right that this whole thing is about Iran, but not in the sense that he describes. Sure, Annapolis was a bid to isolate Iran, but the more salient connection is that the success of the process launched there is completely dependent on Western success in preventing Iran from going nuclear.
Imagine the Arab world making peace with Israel at the very moment when Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda obtain an Iranian nuclear umbrella. You can't, because it won't happen. By contrast, if Iran's nuclear bid is blocked or the mullahs are forced to cut a Libya-like deal, then peace becomes possible because the wind will be let out of the radical Islamists' sails. Everything depends on beating Iran – but Annapolis and any process coming out of it are not nearly enough to do that.
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