The Other Half of the Peace Process

In advance of the upcoming US-sponsored Middle East peace conference, Condoleezza Rice has said that the creation of a Palestinian state is a component of US national security. But a Palestinian state will not appear now or in ten years if Israel continues build settlements in areas slated to be part of it.

PRINCETON - American officials usually spend enormous energy highlighting the “process” in the Middle East “peace process.” Only in the last 18 months of a second term president or following a military engagement in the Middle East does the United States actually start to concern itself with “peace.”

This pattern seems to be holding true for next week’s US-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. The difference now is that, unlike the Madrid Conference after the 1991 American-led Gulf War, the current effort is coming after a perceived American defeat in Iraq.

Assuming that the Bush administration is serious in its current efforts, the US must have a Plan B in case the talks fail. For Palestinians, the main concern is to avoid negative repercussions if they do. Unlike former President Bill Clinton, who blamed Yassir Arafat for the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, the Bush administration must honor its commitment not to point fingers or allow either side to use failure to advance its strategic goals.

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