The right time for a Palestine-Israeli settlement was early 2006, when Hamas was in power and therefore had a stake in the system.
The British prime minister tried hard to make the case on BBC News that this was “the right time” for the Annapolis meeting to put the Palestine-Israeli conflict on the front burner.
Palestine is divided, the legally elected government overthrown and marginalized in Gaza – undercut from the moment it won the election and forced out, castigated for a virtual civil war outsiders worked very hard to foment, and alienated from the very political process it had formerly been criticized for rejecting.
Now, with the Palestine government and people utterly humiliated, Israeli guns and helicopters (Electronic Intifada, Nov 27) killing Palestinians even as the conference convenes, and the sight of Fatah police beating up Palestinians exercising their democratic right to protest, exactly what are the Palestinian people to make of the party in Annapolis?
The “right time” for a settlement was that instant in January 2006 when Hamas bought in—ever so tenuously, it is true, but nevertheless bought in—to the “system.” Reinforcing that fleeting inclination to compromise might have started some historic balls rolling; instead, a very different lesson was rammed down the throats of the hardliners, and the huge anti-Annapolis demonstration in Gaza on the 27th was the direct result.
Israel is the country with troops occupying a foreign land. Israel is the side with the power. Therefore, it will be up to Israel to make the first move toward peace: Palestine in abject occupation has nothing more to give. But even in this Christmas season, given the events of the last two years, it strains the imagination to conceive of a deal that Israel could offer Fatah that would suffice to quell Palestinian suspicions of a sell-out. And the horizons are crowded with extremists more than willing to take advantage of any Palestinians who may want to return whatever "present" Tel Aviv offers them.