Why Annapolis draws yawns in Knesset corridors

"Not even the coalition MKs who... defend Annapolis, really think that it will accomplish anything."

peretz yawn 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
peretz yawn 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
To understand the difference between the upcoming Annapolis peace summit and previous peace efforts, politicians said they need only peer into the Knesset's unofficial conference room - the Knesset cafeteria. "In the weeks before Oslo, and before Camp David, the Knesset was so full the cafeteria ran out of food," said one Kadima MK, who was the only coalition member in the nearly-empty cafeteria Monday. "The excitement was tangible. Things were bustling. You couldn't find a table, and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife... That is, if you even got a knife. Look at it now." Barely two weeks before the Annapolis peace summit, and the Knesset cafeteria remained largely empty of MKs despite three no-confidence motions and faction meetings on the day's agenda. "People come to the Knesset when there are important issues to be discussed and they need to congregate in one place. No one, not even the coalition MKs who get up on television to defend Annapolis, really think that it will accomplish anything," said the MK, who, like many others in the government, only disparaged Annapolis on condition of anonymity. While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have increasingly stressed that they do not expect to reach a final agreement with the Palestinians at Annapolis, MKs said the government was becoming increasingly shaky over its commitment to the summit. "This is not a serious effort at peace talks. It is barely a diplomatic step, let alone a historic step," said MK Ran Cohen (Meretz). "There is nothing new in these talks to garner excitement... I have been an MK many years and I don't see anyone here, in the Knesset, that really believes that a peace treaty [can be] reached at Annapolis." Cohen's party, which has always been highly supportive of peace initiatives, has remained largely silent on the upcoming summit. Right-wing parties, meanwhile, have maintained a steady voice of opposition. On Monday, MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP) sent a letter to the US administration asking that they postpone Annapolis to a future date "where the Israeli people and the political climate will be more receptive of peace talks." The move has been the most drastic step taken by the right-wing parties, said MK Yitzhak Levy (NU-NRP). "In past years there were serious protests and serious efforts being made by the right-wing lobby to make our concerns known ahead of peace negotiations. This time around, there is some talk, but no one is really taking it seriously," said Levy. "There is a general consensus that this whole process is more declarative than serious." In the Knesset plenum, which opened its session with no-confidence motions against the government over the ongoing teachers' strike and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, only seven MKs were in attendance. "Even if this was a time of declarations, there isn't anyone around declaring anything of great importance," said the lone coalition MK.