In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by saying that The Obnoxious American is of Jewish heritage and faith and a strong supporter of the state of Israel. Upon first hearing about the Annapolis conference between Israel and most Arab states, I had a near immediate feeling of deja vu.
About eight years ago, former President Clinton tried running the same play, a last ditch effort to bolster his flailing legacy. Then as now, it wasn't at all clear how the President's tenure would be tallied amongst the great leaders of this country's past. It's a shame that selfish desires drive such noble efforts, but that is the American way after all.
The problem with Annapolis, with the US led roadmap to peace, doesn't lie with the US. Although now, as then, when (not if) it fails it will be laid at the feet of the President.
The other problem with Annapolis is that it gives legitimacy to the gripes of America and Israel's enemies. CNN and other American mainstream media were happy to report that "Israel is 'ready' for a deal", saying that the only sticking points were merely the fate of Jerusalem, the right of return, and the labeling of Israel as a Jewish state. Sounds pretty innocuous right?
It's worth noting that Israel has always been ready to work out some sort of agreement with the Palestinians, in hopes that the never-ending barrage of missiles being shot over its border, and the drumbeat of terrorists attacks on its civilians would stop. No news there. In fact, during the last eight or so years of the Palestinians' destructive intifada, Israel has tried releasing prisoners, turning over settlements, making peace arrangements, all to no avail. Furthermore, as far as I can remember, the specific issues that have been identified in Annapolis have always existed.
Not to say that Israel has been perfect. When provoked, there have been times where the response could have been more measured. That said, when you are being slowly victimized sometimes you act out of turn. However, even when the response has been outsized, Israel still showed restraint. They have the military power to completely decimate the Palestinians. They haven't.
One need only look to the time before this most recent intifada (called incidentally by the Palestinians) to see Palestinians making up a good percentage of the Israeli work force (i.e. mid-nineties). Israelis are like us; ultimately, they want peace and a good economy. Like most westernized nations, they are not bent on destruction or religious ideology and for this reason, they are open to a peaceful resolution to the I/P conflict without pushing all Palestinians into the sea. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the same can be said for the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world.
Let's start with the question of labeling Israel a Jewish state. Critics argue that Jews, while the vast majority of Israel's populace, are not the only people living within its borders; both Christians and Muslims and a few others live in Israel. Of course, the nations of Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, and Pakistan all have "Islamic republic" in their full name while also hosting minorities of other religions. In fact, a small minority of Jews happen to live in Iran, but for some reason, they aren't complaining.
Many more countries that don't have Islamic Republic in their name practice sharia, Islamic law, as their legal system, even though they also host minorities from other religions. Sharia has a pretty big impact on these minorities as Dhimmis (non-Muslims living under sharia) tend to have fewer rights than Muslims do.
The fact is that Israel was first mandated by the League of Nations following World War One as a "national home for the Jewish people," and the U.N. in 1947 expanded on this by approving the partition of the state of Israel. Israel is a Jewish state just like Iran is an Islamic republic. Putting aside the obvious hypocrisy of this "concern," what possible reason would Arab nations have with this "labeling?" Simple — Palestinians Muslims can't claim a right of return to a state that is explicitly Jewish, can they?