Visiting MEPs skeptical on Annapolis

Visiting European Parliament members told their Israeli counterparts Tuesday they have serious doubts that the Annapolis peace conference will succeed. They also expressed concern over an upsurge in Palestinian violence if the talks fail. The MEPs, part of a joint-parliamentary committee lead by MK Amira Dotan (Kadima), are visiting Israel this week to take part in meetings with senior government and industry figures. On Tuesday, the European and Israeli legislators held a series of sessions at the Knesset to discuss security, environment and immigration issues. The discussions ranged from Iran's nuclear weapons program to Israel's possible future participation in NATO, but the European delegation expressed the most concern about Annapolis and a potential flare-up in violence after the conference. On Monday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense that while failed peace talks could lead to increased violence, he did not believe it would reach the levels of the second intifada that began in late 2000. "Some of us, many of us, are skeptical of Annapolis. Of course, I wish everyone success. I feel, however, that it is extremely risky right now. If you can't deliver serious results the effect will have serious repercussions in the whole region," said MEP Nikolay Mladenov (Bulgaria). "How do you see the role of Europe in both the case of success and failure in Annapolis?" His question was echoed by MEP Paul Von Buitenen (Netherlands), who quizzed MKs if they had a "backup plan" to Annapolis. Both questions went unanswered, as MKs Danny Yatom (Labor) and Isaac Ben-Israel (Kadima) told the visitors they had hopes that Annapolis would achieve positive results. "Annapolis is very much dependent on Europe and the international community if it wants to see success," said Ben-Israel, who added that European aid was crucial to developing a stable economy and society in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "If the summit fails it could be worse than the intifada of 2000. In either case we will need our international friends," he said. The European lawmakers will continue meeting with Israeli officials on Wednesday, when they will focus on economic sanctions facing Iran and expectations for the road map peace plan.