In just a few years, all three major Israeli peace/security paradigms have collapsed: "Peace Now," "Greater Israel," and unilateralism. While the old fringes still dominate the debate, a wide swath of the Israeli public does not want to rule over Palestinians, but also feels badly burned from previous withdrawals, which brought more war rather than more peace.
Israelis want peace badly, but don't see how to get there from here. Add to this the weaknesses of the three players – Olmert, Abbas, and Bush – and expectations for Annapolis are at rock bottom. That said, there is tepid agreement with Olmert's argument that some process is probably better than nothing.
These low expectations, however, could change dramatically if the Arab side were to make some concrete steps toward peace. The two things Israelis will look for is Arab acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, not just our de facto existence, and a diplomatic-economic warming trend – as during the Oslo era's heyday – from the Arab states.
It’s easy to generate a kind of peace-hope euphoria in such a situation, which in turn produces massive internal pressure on the Israeli government to reciprocate. But the reverse is not true, which is why -- contrary to Western conventional wisdom -- the Arab side has a much greater ability to catalyze a peace process than does Israel.
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