Update: The shadow of Iran looms…and expectations “are lower than the Dead Sea.”
If things don’t go their way in Annapolis tomorrow at the Mideast Capitulation Summit, a Palestinian shopkeeper recommends that customers smash his souvenir mugs to bits (via Reuters):
In a symbol of fragile hopes for this week’s Middle East peace conference at Annapolis, one Palestinian shopkeeper is selling souvenir mugs for the event — complete with instructions to smash them if talks break down.
Under a dove and olive branch motif, the mugs carry the message in English: “Please keep this souvenir, but in case of the conference’s failure; you are only asked to break the mug”.
Tareq Abu Dayya, who runs a gift shop in the Gaza Strip, said he meant the mugs to symbolize hope the conference could lead to a Palestinian state but also his low expectations for success:
“If the conference doesn’t succeed, then the poor citizen can do nothing but break this mug. End of story,” said Abu Dayya, who reported brisk sales of mugs at a hefty $2.50 apiece.
Amos Harel weighs Israel’s defensive dilemma on the eve of the Annapolis folly:
Here, in a nutshell, is the Israel Defense Forces’ dilemma ahead of the Annapolis conference: To what extent should proactive measures in the West Bank (and to a lesser extent in the Gaza Strip) be rolled back in the coming days?
On the one hand, an excess of arrest operations could obviously lead to an unnecessary entanglement that would cloud the atmosphere at the conference, whose chances for success are already limited. If civilians are killed – or even wanted gunmen – on the day before the summit, the Palestinians will be able to accuse Israel of sabotaging the peace process. On the other hand, reducing the IDF’s activity could let Palestinian terrorist groups achieve their goal of disrupting the conference by a showy attack.
As of last night, the central and southern army commands had not received any new directives. In an arrest sweep yesterday in the heart of Tul Karm, a relatively senior wanted militant from Fatah was killed and his accomplice badly wounded; in the Gaza Strip, three gunmen were killed when they approached the Erez crossing. Before past conferences of this sort, orders were issued to maintain a lower profile; to make do for a few days with pursuing only “ticking bombs.” Yesterday there was one specific alert about a plan to dispatch a suicide bomber (that was the reason for the temporary high alert in Jerusalem).
Several lesser alerts exist, but the main fear is of “sleeper” cells hitting Israel without any warning.
Meanwhile, Syria sends in its RSVP–and its demands–to the Annapolis folly:
Syria announced Sunday that it would attend the Middle East peace meeting beginning here Monday night, joining Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab League participants in a turnabout that represented a victory for the Bush administration.
Syria, a supporter of groups opposed to a Palestinian peace with Israel, said it would send a deputy foreign minister to the meeting, which will continue on Tuesday in Annapolis, Md. In return, Syria was promised that Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, taken from Syria in the 1967 war, would be on the agenda.
Here’s the schedule:
The meeting opens on Monday evening, after President Bush has separate meetings with Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas, with a lavish dinner at the State Department. On Tuesday, at Annapolis, the three leaders will meet privately, then deliver speeches. Then there are, after lunch, three consecutive sessions: on bilateral Israeli-Palestinian peace; on efforts by the former British prime minister Tony Blair to help the Palestinians create the economy and institutions of a state; and on regional issues, including the Golan Heights and Lebanon.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bush will meet again, though separately, with Mr. Abbas and Mr. Olmert, with other issues on the Israeli agenda, like the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.