It is funny how not many people, especially in this part of the world, pin much hope on Annapolis. One wonders why nobody takes it seriously. Even the host nation doesn't seem to know what exactly is at stake. Officials in Washington only just decided on holding it November 27 with barely time to issue invitations.
However, we do know why the world is focussed on Annapolis. There is no specific Arab agenda as such, but there is a United States-Israeli agenda, one which subsumes within it the agenda of pro-Western Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).
Judging from the facts on the ground, with Gaza under siege for five months and the Annexation Wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem well-nigh complete, Israel's motives vis-à-vis the Palestinian people appear more discriminatory and altogether suffocating than ever, to say the very least. That Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should have announced the release of a few hundred Palestinian prisoners on the eve of the Annapolis meeting is clearly little more than lip-service to the international community.
There are many who doubt the seriousness with which the international community takes the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is the first time in history that a people under occupation has faced economic sanctions. The suffering of the Palestinian people is testimony to the callousness of Western powers -- the US and the European Union. The people of Gaza are subjected to collective punishment in a most brutal fashion merely for exercising their democratic rights.
Olmert has threatened to take military action against Hamas. The military incursions of the Israelis often result in the mass killings of innocent civilians. The world speaks of a two-state solution, but nobody takes that very seriously either. For Palestinians it is more of the same -- occupation, and more occupation.
In addition, with the right of return scrapped from the agenda, as it admittedly has been countless times before, is there room to genuinely pin hope on Annapolis? More likely, it seems set on constituting yet another farce in a string of historical farces, where power is played and shared out amongst warmongers and clients, always to the disadvantage of the Palestinians.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, tensions soared as the question of the presidency remained unresolved, and the country's political spectrum remained neatly split in two. Once more, outgoing President Emile Lahoud's proposal -- to constitutionally appoint the chief of the army as his successor -- sent low- intensity shockwaves through the nation, with rumours of an impending state of emergency abounding. Whether or not such rumours have any basis in truth is secondary in a way to the fact that they reflect the very real sense in Lebanon of looming chaos.
The rising tensions in the region are mounting; in Iraq, Iran, Palestine and now Lebanon. The international community must resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict as a priority. It holds the key to the resolution of other conflicts in the region. The world cannot afford to leave it to fester.