THE Annapolis agreement between Israel and Palestine to work together towards a two-state solution of their differences within one year was not exactly earth shattering but most observers have agreed with President Bush that it was “worth a try”. It follows that the negotiators on both sides need all the encouragement they can get including, one might have thought, that of the United Nations. So on Friday the US Ambassador at the UN, Zalmay Khalilizad, tabled a Security Council resolution endorsing the Annapolis agreement and received unanimous approval from the Council's members. However, within a few hours, the US withdrew the resolution, saying that further consultation was needed. What had happened? It turned out that Israel did not like the idea of involving the UN in any way in the search for peace in the Middle East. “It's not the proper venue,” said Israel's deputy ambassador at the UN. Then a US State Department spokesman said, “Secretary of State Rice believes that the positive results of Annapolis speak for themselves and there is no need to gild the lily.” Goodness knows how many times I have written in this space that America's Middle East policies, especially in relation to the UN, are run by Israel but I don't recall that I have ever been able to produce such clear evidence to support my thesis. What a depressing end to a week in which even professional pessimists on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement allowed themselves to hope just a little.


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