Amos Guiora figured Tuesday was a "good day" for the Bush administration, but he said the "nitty-gritty" of upcoming negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will show whether key compromises between the two Middle East leaders can be reached.
Looking past this week's summit in Annapolis, Md., Guiora, a University of Utah law professor and expert on Middle East counterterrorism and security issues, isn't convinced that either leader has the political willpower to make those compromises happen.
"I hope that I'm proven wrong," said Guiora, who in the 1990s helped negotiate the implementation of the Oslo Peace Agreement.
Whatever it is Abbas and Olmert are able to agree upon down the road, Guiora said they still will have to sell their recommendations to political leadership and the public back home.
"Here's where it gets complicated," Guiora said.
One suicide bombing during negotiations, he added, may mean extremists could be the ones who dictate the speed or success of continued talks. Then there are the host of heavy questions, like how Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, will fit into some kind of agreement between both sides, Guiora said.
"It's just the beginning of a process," he said about the summit.
While Guiora called it a "respite from Iraq" for President Bush, this week's meeting of more than 40 nations, including Syria and Saudi Arabia, should by no means be considered a panacea for the long-lingering problems between Israelis and Palestinians, according to Chibli Mallat, a law and politics professor at the U.
Mallat is an internationally known author and expert on Middle East law and was once a candidate for president in Lebanon, where he also has a law firm.
"It has to be a process," Mallat said by phone. "How much will the process prevent violence, I'm not sure."
A century of discord between Israel and Palestine, he added, won't end overnight. Mallat said both leaders will need to continually meet and work through their differences in the coming months. Ultimately what needs to happen to achieve long-term peace and stability throughout the Middle East, he said, is for democracy to take hold like it did in Europe after World War II.
Guiora said it shouldn't take another world war for that to happen in the Middle East, and that democracy and "true peace" in an increasingly difficult-to-define region are possible."I think that we're not there today," said Guiora, who will be closely watching the summit. "This is an important first step."
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