Where have we heard this all before?
Back in 2000, Bill Clinton was nearing the end of his 2nd term as president. Despite having been in power during a period of unprecedented growth in American prosperity and power while relative international peace was closer than ever, he was in danger of being remembered as the president who spent more time chasing interns than formulating policy. He knew that he would be remembered not as a great leader but as the butt of jokes about sex. He took a giant leap at that point and decided he was going to solve the problem of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Having shephered the Oslo Discords for as far as he did, he seemed confident that some personal negotation, without the bluster and interference of outside parties, would finally settle the last outstanding issues and bring peace to the Middle East, ensuring himself a great reputation for posterity.
He almost succeeded too. He met with Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat for days until finally coming up with an agreement that would give Arafat 95% of his historical demands. It was unprecedented and would have led to Israel's dismemberment had it gone through. No sane leader would have rejected so generous an offer. To his shock and amazement, Arafat turned it down, went back to Israel and started the second Intifada.
Which brings us up to the present day. Another lame-duck president whose reputation will be remembered as a bumbling, scheming clod who led America into a war it couldn't win has now also decided that peace in Israel is close. As a result, he has created another peace summit and this time it's Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas that are coming to America to figure a fair way to end the 60 year old conflict between the Israelis and Arabs.
It doesn't take a genius to realize this conference will fail and that a third intifada will erupt as a result. Consider:
1) Ehud Barak had a measure of popularity as prime minister and his time as a general gave some people the belief that he would not do something that would militarily damage Israel. Ehud Olmert, on the other hand, remains in single digits in popularity polls. He's under investigation for corruption and his coalition only continues to exist because the parties in it know that elections now will lead to their decimation. Any agreement that threatens the integrity of Israel or leads to massive pullouts in return for meaningless Arab promises will bring down his government. He can't agree to what the Arabs demand of him, even if he wants to.
2) Mahmoud Abbas is in even a worse position. Like all the other Arab leaders, he still insists that his demands be accepted by Israel as is and without any modification whatsoever, including the surrender of Yerushalayim and the right of two million Arabs to flood into Israel and end its existence as a Jewish state. If he deviates from this script, he will lose what little support he has left among his people as his organization, Fatah, has been telling them for 40 years that these are the minimum demands the Arabs have of Israel. He therefore must demand of Israel something that Olmert can't give him.
What will happen? The same as always. The Arabs will claim their maximalist demands are "reasonable" and when the Israelis balk, they will scream that it's the Jews, as always, who are obstacles to peace. The Americans, desperate for an agreement they can show to the Arab world so it will support them in their feud with Iran will pressure the Israelis into crippling agreements and the rest of the world will agree with the Arabs. They will then leave and within a few months another intifada, this one possibly joined in by Hezbollah, will begin.
I would think that the best thing Olmert could do for Israel would be to start the conference with a simple statement: "The Jewish nation was born in the land of Israel and has an eternal connection to it. Yerushalayim is our holiest city and just as no Catholic would ever think of giving away the Vatican, or no Muslim would think of allowing an infidel into Mecca or Medina, it is our city now and forever. Until that is recognized, what do we have to talk about?"
But he won't because he still doesn't understand the immesity of the forces arrayed against the continued existence of our State and that our greatest ally now has a bigger concern than Israel's continued safety.
Let us pray to our Father in Heaven that this ill-conceived conference doesn't bring yet another disaster upon our land.