Posted by: Tony Carson | 8 October, 2007

Can the Palestine peace talks do more harm than good?

Is the Bush Administration playing with fire in preparing for autumn peace talks between Israel and Palestine?

The Arabs are already accusing Secretary of State Rice of not doing her homework, of turning the peace conference “into a ‘photo-op,’ which they believe could backfire against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and boost his militant rivals in the Islamic Hamas group, leaving the Middle East in a bigger mess,” according to Time Magazine. 

Further,

Syrian President Bashar Assad said last week his country will not attend if the Golan is not discussed. The Saudis are also hesitant, preferring to withhold tacit recognition of Israel until significant progress is made toward a Palestinian state. Jordan and Egypt, which already have peace treaties with Israel, are concerned that failure will benefit the region’s Islamic radicals.

The Arab worry, sources say, reflects persistent doubts about how far Bush is really prepared to go — for example, in applying pressure on Israel to make concessions — to broker a historic peace deal. “The record of the administration does not bode well,” says an Arab official. “This administration has not done anything on the Palestinian issue, apart from saying in 2002 that they want a Palestinian state but failing to follow up on that. Getting anything out of them has involved getting it with a big wrench.”

Putting diplomacy and Bush in the same sentence seems oxymoronic but any diplomacy, some might argue, is better than none. But maybe not, not if the futility of that diplomacy is doomed to failure and in the process empowers those who not only predict the failure but benefit from it.

With barely more than a year left to endure before a change in presidents, perhaps everyone would actually benefit from more of the same out of a an administration that has all put ignored this central conflict in the Middle East. The less Bush touches in the remainder of his term the better.

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