ENGAGEMENT: PEOPLE LIKE IT.

I just got back from a CMEP-sponsored panel on Annapolis and what it all means, and though there were differing views on where things would go from here, all the panelists were unanimous in their relief and enthusiasm for renewed U.S. engagement in the process.

Daniel Levy, who was one of today's panelists, wrote this last Tuesday:

"The Bush administration continues to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of a global war on terrorism and as part of the momentous struggle of good against evil. The great irony of the Annapolis conference is that the framing narrative of its convener is the one thing that most undermines its chances of success. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is grievance-driven and its resolution is all about ending the occupation. Israel needs and deserves security and peace but those things don't coexist cozily with occupation. Violent al-Qaidists and their copycat crews use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to rally and mobilise support, to vilify America and to undermine America's allies in the region.

That does not change the basic equation that for the vast number of Palestinians, Hamas included, this is about addressing a real grievance and not about destroying Israel or America. An America that accurately connects the dots in the region will likely pursue a more inclusive and comprehensive process and do so with the conviction that this is a vital American interest."

It's hard to overstate how irresponsible and counterproductive George W. Bush's laissez fair attitude toward the peace process has been. It's obviously a good thing that his administration is more engaged now, and here's hoping they can lay some groundwork for a new, more competent administration to build on.

I should mention a notable anniversary: On November 29, 1947, the United Nations resolved to partition Palestine, giving 55% to its Jewish inhabitants, who made up about a third of the population, and 45% to its non-Jewish population, who made up the other two thirds. Lots of people weren't happy about this, war war war. As Levy noted today, this week we saw representatives from throughout the Arab world, including the Palestinians, at the table with Israel, prepared to recognize an Israel which would encompass almost 75% of Mandate Palestine. While there's clearly a long way to go before a final accommodation is reached and Israel's relations with its neighbors resemble anything that could be called normal, we should acknowledge this as an important moment.

--Matthew Duss

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