Analysis: From winds of war to seeds of peace?

We might not be facing war in the next few weeks, but an outbreak of peace isn't in the cards either.

Condi Rice 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Condi Rice 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Only a few weeks ago, just about everyone - politicians, generals, intelligence experts, journalists - was predicting a war this summer. Now, they've all disappeared and in their place we suddenly have a procession of peace-makers descending on Jerusalem. Last week it was Tony Blair and the Arab League foreign ministers. This week it's US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, here for yet another maintenance visit and to hand out invitations for next month's international conference in New York. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is passing on to the Palestinians principles for a new peace agreement and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has never looked more friendly. How has war in the summer transformed so smoothly into the summer of diplomatic love? Perhaps we should be asking ourselves who had such an interest in issuing all those warnings back then. Were intelligence reports sexed up and overplayed in order to support one of the candidates in the Labor primaries - perhaps Ehud Barak, who tried to convince everyone that he's the guy we need in charge in the next war? Was this an attempt to prepare the public in advance of the IDF's demands for an extra 10 million shekels in the defense budget? Or was it simply a post-trauma effect of the last war, with the generals covering their asses so the next time, no-one can say they didn't warn us? Of course, those with the warning sirens could have been perfectly sincere. But if there were serious intelligence behind these warnings, how could it have been disproved so quickly? One conclusion we can draw is that the skepticism we obviously should have shown towards the winds of war, seems also to be the healthy attitude to the peace offensive. And in this regard we have an advantage. Most of us did not have access to the secret intelligence material that apparently formed the view that we were heading for war, so we really couldn't say for sure what many of us suspected - that it was false. But when it comes to all this diplomacy, we know only to well just how capable the players are of actually delivering a real result. Tony Blair might have been an effective prime minister, but he's now on the path to being a has-been. Anyway, his American friends weren't prepared to entrust him with anything more than being an economic coordinator. Not that they're doing much better. What are the chances that the weakest and most discredited US administration in living memory, whose rating is low especially in this region, will succeed where no one has before in resolving our conflict? Neither is this a particularly good period for the Arab League - with Iraq in ruins, Lebanon tottering on the brink, and the rest of the members shaky and at each other's throats. Even if all these intermediaries were actually capable of brokering an agreement, could the most unpopular Israeli prime minister in history push it through the Knesset, let alone sell it to the Israeli public? As for Abbas, he isn't even in control of half his territory and people. Meanwhile, Hamas, which is really calling the shots, is out of the negotiations. So why is everyone so eager to give up their summer vacations for this diplomatic charade? Regarding Blair, it would seem that he is trying to redeem his "legacy," hopelessly overshadowed by Iraq, by embarking on this hopeless crusade. For Rice, this is a last desperate attempt to salvage something from a rather ignominious term as secretary of state. The Arab League members hope that if they can at least make it look like the Arab peace initiative has a sliver of a chance, the US will let up temporarily on its campaign to spread democracy through the region. For both Olmert and Abbas, it's a matter of internal politics, much more than actual diplomacy. Both have to show they are in charge, in the hope of warding off potential rivals and coup attempts; the appearance of an active peace process gives at least a semblance of someone actually being in charge. We might not be facing war in the next few weeks, but an outbreak of peace isn't in the cards either.•