by Chris Silver
Prime Minister Salam Fayad has asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to release 2,000 prisoners before Annapolis. There are currently some 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails. Even if there is a substantial prisoner release (which would give the peace process some momentum) let's remember that the last large release of that scale was in 1985 when Israel freed 1,150 prisoners (including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin) in exchange for three POWs held by Jibril Rajoub. Oslo began some eight years later.
Lebanon was scheduled to hold presidential elections on November 12. The election has been postponed until November 21. Emile Lahoud's term ends November 24, one day before the start of Annapolis. Whether a president is elected or not, for Israel the Syrian track is on hold for now. Let's remember that what happens in Lebanon and Syria affects Israel and Palestine.
There is a little over one year left in the Bush presidency. This should cause both Israelis and Palestinians serious concern. Ironically it seems that the only promising track for the Israelis is the Palestinian one. Nonetheless, it is clear that Annapolis will be at most the beginning of new negotiations but certainly will not lead to a final deal (Israelis are now referring to Annapolis as a meeting and not a conference). But we should remember that Israelis and Palestinians have a way of surprising even the most adept political scientist.