Annapolis - rearrange the script

Hans Rustad

Many jour­na­lists had to rewrite their scripts for the Anna­po­lis meeting when it became clear that real pro­gress could be made. Among them was Nor­we­gian pub­lic radio’s Wash­ing­ton cor­re­spon­dent Tove Bjør­gaas. Even For­eign Minis­ter Jonas Gahr Støre let slip a wry smile when asked: What is new?

For some people the Anna­po­lis meeting repre­sents a dead end. Not­hing good can come from the Bush admi­ni­stra­tion, whose blun­ders in the Middle East have been too many and too big. To think other­wise would under­mine their own ana­ly­sis of the Middle East.

As Direc­tor of NUPI, a state-funded think tank, and for­mer offi­cial in the Uni­ted Nations Jan Ege­land said on NRK TV: We revert to the mot­her con­flict in the Middle East.

The term “mot­her con­flict” says a lot about Egeland’s pre­sump­tions: Israel is the root cause of the troubles in the Middle East. This is of course a highly poli­ti­cized view, but one that goes unchal­len­ged in Nor­we­gian pub­lic debate.

How did it come about that the nation whose capi­tal gave name to the first peace process became alig­ned with the rejec­tion front led by Hamas? There was of course the election vic­tory. But that is not the whole story. Norway’s big­gest poli­ti­cal party, The Labour Party, has been influ­en­ced by the same anti-americanism that has taken hold of many Euro­pean par­ties. Events tend to move people, and Labour along with most par­ties have gra­vi­tated to the side that is scep­ti­cal of US and Israel.

For­eign Minis­ter Jonas Gahr Støre must take some of the blame for this. His rec­og­nition of the Hamas-led Pale­sti­nian govern­ment last spring was a sin­gu­lar act that rever­be­rated in Wash­ing­ton. The ratio­nale for this act was hard to follow. It ope­ned up a Pandora’s box and Nor­way has had great dif­fi­culty disen­tang­ling itself from this position ever since.

Stan­ding in Anna­po­lis last night, NRK’s repor­ter ran out of posi­tive things to say and fell back on the scep­ti­cism that was there all along. She asked the For­eign Minis­ter. “What is really new here?” And with a wry smile Gahr Støre said that the road map was still on the table, imply­ing that it is rat­her obso­lete. When asked how Abbas can nego­tiate when Hamas is absent, Gahr Støre wrigg­led and gave an equi­vo­cal answer.

In rec­og­ni­zing Hamas, the Nor­we­gian Govern­ment also impli­citly rec­og­nized their legi­ti­macy. That put them at odds with pre­si­dent Bush’s policy that the ques­tion is not only a Pale­sti­nian state, but what prin­cip­les it is foun­ded on. Not to under­stand this is to give legi­ti­macy to the raging crowd in Gaza who shouted “Death to America.”

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