It didn’t take long for the glow of the Annapolis peace conference to wear off. Israelis and Palestinians have quickly fallen back into destructive patterns. Arab countries have not done anywhere near enough to support the negotiations. Even the United States is behind on its pledges: Because of bureaucratic wrangling and Israeli doubts, it has yet to establish a promised “mechanism” to monitor the two sides’ behaviour and pressure them into meeting their commitments.

Palestinians are right to complain that Israel violated its promise to halt settlements by announcing a tender for about 300 new apartments in Har Homa, and Israel is right to demand that the Palestinians act more aggressively to disband terrorist and militant groups. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, tried to calm tensions when they met last week and promised — again — to refrain from acts prejudicing a final peace treaty.

The danger that some extremists will try to destroy the negotiations with a mindless act of violence is never far. Olmert and Abbas should push the process forward as fast as they can. The recent stagnation, after the enthusiasm of Annapolis, is a reminder of why Bush cannot stand on the sidelines and hope that an agreement will materialise. — International Herald Tribune