Still talking: Annapolis one year on

Since the meeting in Annapolis, exactly a year ago, work has begun on some 1,200 new homes in the occupied territories, according to official figures.

There are now 450,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, 180,000 of them in East Jerusalem. Some settlers live on land Israel expects to keep. But many settlements would have to be evacuated under any agreement.

“The government is not doing anything to stop the settlements because there is no price [to pay],” Mr Eldar added. “The government has to decide whether to tackle the settlers or to let down our allies in the West. They would rather let down their allies in the West.”

The over-riding Israeli concern is security. Many Israelis argue that they withdrew from Gaza, only to see it used as a launch pad for rockets. They don’t want the same thing to happen if or when a Palestinian state is created.

That’s why what is happening with the Palestinian security forces is so important. They have been receiving a lot of training from foreign experts. The results of that can be seen in the quieter streets of places like Nablus and Jenin.

The way the security forces have taken charge in the West Bank is one of the few hopeful signs linked to Annapolis. The big issues, however, remain unsolved.

President Bush’s plan was always hugely ambitious and, some would say, always likely to fail. But he does leave to the region and to his successor a peace process if not a peace agreement.

The talking will continue. That’s more than could be said before Annapolis.

Ref: BBC

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