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All or nothing

"All or nothing" Continued...

Issue: "Our pork," Dec. 8, 2007

Delegates from 43 countries and 10 international organizations attended the conference, including two long-time enemies of Israel, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Syria's presence in particular signals a historic opportunity to improve relations between Israel and her northern neighbor. "Syria is the headstone of the Iranian presence in the heart of the Middle East," Grinstein said. "Through Syria the Iranians are interacting with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Palestinian territories." Workplan watchers can expect "much greater ripeness on the Syrian track than the Palestinian track," Grinstein predicts, and Syrian support of the workplan could neutralize its terrorist connections.

Both Grinstein and Dajani say that previous peace accords were flawed in their implementations. "In the past the problem was that both sides had different interpretations of what a settlement freeze meant for Israelis and what security meant for Palestinians," Dajani said. With the United States playing the role of "monitor and judge" this time around, Dajani anticipates less confusion over which side has lived up to its end of the bargain.

But underlying all plans, promises, and pledges is one disturbing reality: Israel is not short on enemies avowed to ending the nation's existence. Dajani says a Palestinian state is the means to the end of that hostility: "If a two-state solution is achieved, there is no doubt that every single Arab country will recognize Israel."

Grinstein is slightly less optimistic: "As far as we can see into the future there are radical Islamic groups . . . that reject the right of Israel to exist and will take action to preserve their ideology."

Grinstein expects "a certain element of friction" always present in Israel's relationship to the Arab world. "But I do believe we can reach a reality, such as the kind of reality we have with Egypt, where by and large we have peaceful coexistence for long periods of time."

Back at Chick & Ruth's-named for Levitt's parents who were its original owners-Levitt sees more pomp than purpose to the Annapolis gathering: "They're sitting down. I don't think anything's going to be [solved] whatsoever, but they're talking."

Levitt's café has a long connection to political figures and celebrities. The yellow walls are studded with photos of famous visitors, and the old-style deli décor matches Levitt's warm, down-home values. From the time Spiro Agnew first became a regular at the restaurant, the Levitts have made it a point to name dishes after political figures. All get to pick their own sandwich, and almost all have to be regulars, except the president, vice president, and Golda Meir (who has a lock on the lox sandwich).

Marjorie Buss, a Chick and Ruth's regular and part-time nursing student, was bemused by last week's celebrity status suddenly visited on her town of 40,000. And a little worried. She thought so many world leaders might draw a terrorist attack to Annapolis: "I hate to think of something happening to this beautiful little town."

Buss is not only realistic about the threats but about the hurdles to solving the Israeli-Palestinian equation in the midst of a war on terror: "People have been trying for decades-they're not going to solve it here in one day."

-with reporting by Priya Abraham, in Annapolis

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