Well, they're doing it again. Another meeting of Middle East leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt has been announced.
I’m really tired of seeing these Sharm el-Sheikh summits being held, where Israeli and Arab leaders meet, make a lot of nice and hopeful statements, and then go back home and act as if nothing really significant happened. How can that be? Because Sharm el-Sheikh summits happen about as frequently as I eat pizza, thus negating any significance such events have, being merely the same shit on a different day (at least I vary my pizzerias). Why don’t they ever meet in Cairo, instead of Sharm? Why not in Amman, instead of Aqaba? Come to think of it, why not at Eilat or Jerusalem?
Of course, there are good answers for that last one (then again, Anwar Sadat spoke before the Knesset in Jerusalem, and Abbas has been to the PM’s residence there, so such meetings on Israeli soil happen). Even so, whatever excuses you come up with, you know it’s really because they’re scared that if they don’t meet somewhere they’ll be seen as doing nothing. And right now, as always really, no one wants to be seen as doing nothing. Screw lives – there’s money at stake…U.S., European, etc. Hamas has Gaza, Iran is...Iran. Gotta show momentum.
These “leaders” (an Egyptian autocrat, a Hashemite king, a disappointing Israeli PM, and an even more disappointing PA president) don’t trust each other, they don’t like each other, they’d rather not meet, but if they have to do so for the sake of appearances...let it be at Sharm el-Sheikh instead of a national capital. That's the reasoning. They can say to their citizenry, the Arab “street” and world leaders “Look, we met, alright?” while those paying closer attention can see that having a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh instead of a seat of government is like choosing to have a business conference in a small motel room rather than a hotel’s grand ballroom. It's like choosing New Jersey over New York.
Look at the location, and you can see how much weight they put on the meeting, and what they expect to result from it – it won’t likely be much different from other summits held there before. Sharm el-Sheikh is no Dayton, Ohio. Sharm el-Sheikh is no Camp David. Summits of leaders held at both locations resulted in accords or peace treaties which have, whatever their faults or weaknesses, lasted. Sharm el-Sheikh isn’t Versailles. It’s not Nice. It’s not Rome. It’s not a place of significant significance, other than that it represents previous failures.
Unless you’re an Israeli war veteran, or an Israeli tourist going to Sinai, or a rich sheikh, or an Arab hotel worker, Sharm el-Sheikh probably resonates very little with you. Sure, the Egyptians get the “prestige” of holding a meeting of regional leaders once again on their soil. But when all that results from such meetings is empty promises and tried-and-failed rhetoric about hopes for a resolution, one would think that if the players were truly serious about moving forward…they’d hold such “important” meetings somewhere else. Like Alexandria, Egypt. That's a neat place...with a lot of history. That could be symbolic.
Referring to this latest planned meeting, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said "Time is of the essence". He's absolutely right, in a way. The amount of time the Palestinians have spent teaching their children hate about Jews and Israel, the amount of time the Arab League has been enforcing its boycott of Israel and fanning the flames of war, the amount of time Mr. "Time is of the Essence" himself, Mr. Erekat, has spent spreading deceitful propaganda, and the amount of time it takes for a Hamas terrorist to press a button and blow himself up...such times are the essence of why, in 2007, we're still talking about a peace process instead of actually seeing one.
Soon, President Mubarak, Prime Minister Olmert, King Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas will likely be on their way to Sharm el-Sheikh. Again. At least they're moving around, instead of standing still.
Who was it that said "Never mistake motion for action"? I forget.
Oh yeah - Hemingway.