The Return of Annapolis

Interesting how the Annapolis conference — which was widely considered too little, too late from a lame-duck Bush administration — has suddenly taken on a different meaning now that, a) Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman repudiated it; and, b) U.S. President Barack Obama name-checked it in his speech before the Turkish Parliament.

Part of that’s a reflection of the fact that a policy approach is only as good as the political capital behind it. But I wonder if, political capital and all, Obama doesn’t risk getting drawn into a very public battle that can’t be won. The political obstacles on both sides to implementing the goals of Annapolis were already substantial at the time of the conference, as detailed in this December 2007 CRS report (.pdf). Since then, the only part of the equation that hasn’t gotten significantly worse is the U.S. commitment to reaching a deal.

That’s not to say that Obama didn’t do well to draw the line, nor that he shouldn’t hold the Netanyahu government to Israel’s commitments under the Road Map and Annapolis. They are, after all, simply logistical blueprints to arrive at previously agreed upon principles. But the less of that arm-wrestling that takes place in the public eye, the better.