Bush Bound for Success in Mideast Summit

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says the Annapolis, Md., summit on the Middle East will be a moderate success for Bush, even if nothing concrete comes out of it. Expectations are low, and just getting all of the players together is an accomplishment.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

President Bush says he is optimistic about tomorrow's Middle East summit in Annapolis. The leaders of Israel and the Palestinian authority will be there, along with representatives of dozens of other countries. The optimism that Mr. Bush expressed today has not been heard very often in advance of this meeting.

But NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says it may not be misplaced.

DANIEL SCHORR: Perhaps the Naval Academy was chosen for this latest Middle East peace effort because of the well-known slogan: Don't give the ship. Surely, no one comes to Annapolis with too rosy expectations. President Bush managed to steer clear of the oldest established crisis in the world for most of his seven years in office. Then, he was willing to risk the prestige of his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, but not his own.

She made eight trips to the area this year and succeeded in cobbling together a cast of some 40 characters without an agreed-upon script. So now, President Bush steps on the stage, but to what purpose? The road to Annapolis from Madrid, from Oslo, from Camp David, is littered with peace efforts, some of which seem close to success as times but ultimately failed.

Everyone knows where the deadlocks are: the status of Jerusalem, the security of Israel, the border of Palestine, the status of Palestinian refugees. And now on the agenda: the Golan Heights - Syria's price for coming to Annapolis.

One of the hopeful signs is that Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas seem more disposed to reaching agreement than were Arial Sharon and Yasser Arafat. One of the less hopeful signs is that both Olmert and Abbas do not command the full support of their constituencies.

As President Bush steps on this well-trodden stage, it seems as though being there is already considered a great success. There may be no breakthrough, but if there's no breakdown, that counts as success. At best, this is a meeting that may lead to further meetings. At worst, Annapolis joins the crowded list of peace efforts that failed.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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