To the editor:

Amid Christmas wishes for peace on earth and goodwill to all, we may well wonder about current prospects for peace in the Holy Land. Observers of the recent Annapolis summit were nearly unanimous in their skepticism, as were the Israeli and Palestinian peoples themselves. One commentator said that the meeting was both “success-proof and failure-proof,” explaining that positive results, if any, could only be proved by actions on the ground, while persuading the parties to even meet at all was its own reward.

Certainly “too little, too late” is an apt phrase to describe the Bush administration’s efforts in this arena to date. The announcement of the Annapolis conference a few months ago was soon followed by a Mideast tour by Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Gates to sell billions of dollars of weapons to U.S. allies in the region, which was complicated by the fact that some of these allies are enemies with each other. The timing, logic and volume of these proposed sales might be likened to an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor taking an alcoholic on a shopping spree at the liquor store as a prelude to entering treatment.

Then there is the credibility of the leaders themselves. Bush, Olmert and Abbas are all politically handicapped by their low domestic approval ratings and their divided citizens. Each faces vocal and powerful extremists in their own countries who are violently opposed to a peace deal. Furthermore, the parties not represented at Annapolis, like Hamas, which now rules Gaza, and the Lebanese, will continue to affect events nonetheless. Pushing them to the margins doesn’t solve anything. To the contrary, the fate of Gaza, under siege and now increasingly resembling the Nazi ghettos created for the Jews, must clearly be part of any lasting peace.

By bypassing the international forums that have addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, like the United Nations and International Court of Justice, Bush has shown again that he can do it alone, and he can do it better. By ignoring previous Arab peace proposals, like the Saudi Initiative of 2002, yet still succeeding in bringing as assemblage of the Arab leadership to Annapolis, he has demonstrated his determination that the American agenda for the region is what will drive the process. Yet beyond the stage-managed sound-bite world of international diplomacy, Bush and his imperial court actually achieved… well, nothing, really. The hard work of peacemaking and justice has yet to begin again.

So there will be no peace in the Holy Land — yet. Citizens of Gaza are expecting large-scale Israeli incursion any time, which may have begun by the time you are reading this. There is no exit strategy from Iraq or Afghanistan. Peace will take more than prayers and more than diplomacy. We the people will have to demand it. If you care about peace, inform yourself and act. As John and Yoko said in their 1969 ad: War is over… if you want it.

Daniel Graham