I'll be very surprised if the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators who begin meeting Dec. 12 can come close to a deal that can be inked before the end of next year, but it's not a bad thing that they're talking. This analysis, from AP, no less, explains fairly well some of the obstacles they will face. It puts a fair amount of emphasis on the complications that would surround making East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital. The Palestinians want it to be an "open" city, but the Israelis are unlikely to agree, fearing it would make access for terrorists all too easy. Then there's the Temple Mount above the Western Wall, with two mosques considered sacred to Muslims -- I thought them both rather beautiful when I visited -- on the same site, not to mention the sites sacred to Christians.
Perhaps as important is the weak position both Ehud Olmert of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority are in relative to the people they purportedly lead. There was a near-riot against the Annapolis meeting in Hebron (one person killed), which the PA supposedly controls -- to to mention the inconvenient fact that Hamas, still militant and opposed to any deal with Israel, controls Gaza. Meanwhile, Likud represntatives railed against any concessions or negotiations, and Olmert is under criminal investigation for alleged financial improprities in his previous job.
As I suggested today on the Register's blog, wouldn't it be nice if the oil-rolling-in-dough oil-producing states invested some of the billions they have available in job-creating businesses and infrastructure on the West Bank? If that happens, we'll have an inkling that Arab states are serious about finally moving toward a resolution of the situation. Unfortunately, don't hold your breath.