In On the Jewish Question, Bernard Lewis addresses the actual nature of the conflict which this week's Annapolis summit is supposed to be addressing:
Herewith some thoughts about tomorrow's Annapolis peace conference, and the larger problem of how to approach the Israel-Palestine conflict. The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, "What is the conflict about?" There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.The difference, Lewis observes, is that the former can be resolved through negotiation--the latter cannot. Given that the statements made by Muslim governments to their own people deny the right of Israel to exist, there is no starting point to begin peace negotiations.
Lewis concludes that there are some small signs of acceptance, but there is still a long way to go:
--unless of course you take into account the 3rd possibility, which we may be witnessing this week: namely that the Israeli government does the Arabs' job for them.
There are signs of change in some Arab circles, of a willingness to accept Israel and even to see the possibility of a positive Israeli contribution to the public life of the region. But such opinions are only furtively expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse. These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.
Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.