I took part in a phone conference earlier this week with Gil Hoffman, the chief political correspondent for the Jerusalem Post to hear his reflections on the Annapolis conference–a conference for which expectations were so low that everyone is coming away pleasantly surprised by the outside chance something may actually come of it. Gil began his remarks by observing that every 30 years, in November, something extremely significant for Israel’s future takes place. In November 1917, it was the Balfour Declaration, stating the British government’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In November 1947, it was the United Nation’s vote to partition the territory of the Palestinian Mandate, effectively creating the State of Israel. In November 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Jerusalem, laying the groundwork for the Camp David Accords and the possibility for Israel to make peace with her neighbors.
Who knows, Gil said–perhaps the Annapolis Conference of November 2007 will go down as the turning point that led to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians?
Now as a rabbi, I’ve never been one for gematria (Jewish numerology) but I’d like to believe Gil has a point. He spoke of the surprising stability of the Olmert government, despite Olmert’s legal problems and personal unpopularity. He spoke of the international commitment to finding an alternative to Hamas’ go-it-alone approach that has destroyed Gaza and will be in evidence when donors meet in Paris next month under Tony Blair’s auspices to try to shore-up the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. He spoke of Saudi Arabia’s participation in the event and the fact that the Saudi foreign minister clapped after Olmert’s speech (even if he refused to shake the Prime Minister’s hand). He spoke of the sense of urgency that there needs to be a moderate alternative in the Middle East, with the cautionary tale of Iraq burning on the doorstep.
Are these enough? I wish I shared Gil Hoffman’s optimism, but I would dearly love to be surprised by what this November has brought.