Annapolis Over: What Does This Mean for Olmert?

The dust is beginning to settle here after the excitement and hype of the Middle East peace summit in Annapolis, Md.

It's back to business, and the news isn't good. In Gaza, Palestinian militants have continued their daily barrage of rocket fire against Israeli targets. The Israeli military has been hitting back.

There are lots of problems for both leaders when they get back behind their desks later today. For Ehud Olmert, in particular, the newspapers will make depressing reading. He will be greeted by this Dahaf Institute opinion poll that says:

Eighty-three percent of Israelis don't see a deal with the Palestinians by the end of 2008 and only 14 percent think he is suited to being prime minister!

Israeli police also decide today whether to recommend corruption charges against Olmert for his alleged role in the sell-off of public bank Bank Leumi. The Israeli attorney general will then decide whether to indict him. Even if he is indicted, the prime minister does not have to resign.

The final report into the conduct of the Lebanon war will be published in a month. That may be even more personally damaging.

On the plane he spoke to Israeli journalists and said, "Without a two-state deal, Israel is finished."

He is referring to the Israeli nightmare scenario of one man-one vote in a single state. In other words in the event that the two-state solution fails to materialize — sometimes called here the South African apartheid scenario — the Palestinians will soon demand power over the whole area through their demographic majority.

The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv this morning talks of regular contact between Israel and Syria using the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov who, according to the newspaper report, has been shuttling between Tel Aviv and Damascus.

Russia's influence over the Assad regime in Damascus is well known. For years Russia has been selling military technology to Syria. This policy has not been popular in Israel.

Meanwhile up the coast in Beirut, there is optimism about a compromise over the continuing stalemate for the election of a new president. The head of the Lebanese army, Michel Suleiman, is once more being touted as a serious contender. Wednesday the U.S.-backed Harriri government withdrew its objection to him.

Many think this means there has been some kind of U.S.-Syrian deal. Suleiman has good contacts with Syria and Hezbollah, which had, until now, ruled him out of consideration among the Western-backed coalition. If this proves a workable compromise that will be a bit of good news for the region.

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