I was very skeptical about last week's Annapolis conference. I didn't expect anything to come out of it, and I was rather dubious with regard to some of the participants (and clearly I had good reason to be, as Allison points out here).
In his severely weakened state, Ehud Olmert was forced by various members of his coalition to water down his declared goals until almost nothing was left. Dogged by scandal after scandal, his mandate going into the conference was shaky at best. On the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas is clearly floundering, carrying barely half of a mandate in his pocket and maintaining a fairly solid record vis a vis his inability to contain terror or lead his people.
I, along with many of my countrymen, were simply not impressed, and nor were we very interested. We've heard far too many words, witnessed far too many committees. Frankly, when it came down to it, I couldn't understand the real reasons for holding this conference now, at a time when neither side seemed capable of delivering promises that could actually be kept. I was especially frustrated by Olmert, who hopped across the ocean to attend a useless conference, stopping only to meet with Jerry Seinfeld before grabbing his passport and jumping on a plane, leaving behind a crushing teachers' strike that threatens to render this academic year as being a complete loss. "Why", I thought. Why now? What could you all possibly gain by going to the US now?"
And then, with a blinding flash of intuition that only a shopaholic could understand, I knew. Peace shmeace. With Thanksgiving safely behind us and gift giving holidays on the horizon, there could only be one reason why our leaders were so anxious to be in the US at precisely this time...