Six months after the Annapolis conference where President George W. Bush called for a final peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians to be concluded before he leaves office in January next year, little has been accomplished; and the illusions of peace making are dissipating.

Goodwill and an earnest commitment to a just and lasting peace are lacking on the part of current Israeli leaders. They had already made it clear that they harboured no illusions of peace breakthrough, and that they viewed Annapolis as no more than a staged photo opportunity. Their actions have been consistent with their declarations.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are experiencing growing frustrations, and must be wondering whether their faith in Washington's willingness to pressure the Israelis was not misplaced.

Following his meeting in late April with the US President George W. Bush, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dejectedly confessed that he had failed to achieve any progress in his talks with Bush

"We demanded the Americans implement the first phase of the roadmap that talks about the cessation of settlement [colonies] expansion," Abbas said, "This is the biggest blight that stands as a big rock in the path of negotiations." Bush refused to make any commitment.

In a meeting with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Palestinians tried to get Rice to confirm that Washington supported the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

Rice refused to make any commitment. "We demanded that they talk about the '67 borders," Abbas told Associated Press, "None of them talks about the '67 borders."

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: "Ultimately, this is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to an agreement."

But in the absence of pressure from Washington - the only party capable of bringing about a settlement - why should the Israeli leaders feel any need to place the wishes of the Palestinians above their strategic designs of expansionism and consolidation of power over their week negotiating interlocutors?

And that is exactly what they have been doing: placing their design of expansionism and domination above their rhetorical readiness for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Thus, since Annapolis, and in defiance of international criticisms, they accelerated the pace of construction of Israeli colonies on Palestinian land; they continued their siege and collective punishment of Palestinians living in Gaza; and they refused to release Palestinian prisoners, or ease the restrictions imposed on the movement of Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Even the situation on the ground, on which Rice likes to focus, is not improving. An investigation by the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem found that the Israeli government's claim that it had removed physical obstructions to Palestinian movement "was no more than sleight of hand".

And that "Israel continues to impose sweeping restrictions on movement in the West Bank".

The Israeli government is also pursuing policies that are designed to cast doubt on the capacity of the Abbas government to run a state. It claims that the Palestinians are not ready for self-government, while doing everything to discredit Palestinian self-governing capacity.

This was painfully in evidence when the first class of Palestinian security officers trained under a US programme was deployed in early May in the West Bank without the promised equipment, because Israel blocked it.

Yet, Israeli leaders continue to say withdrawal from the West Bank is conditional upon the Palestinian government's ability to provide security in the West Bank.

On the issue of growing Israel colonies, Palestinian leaders were baffled by Bush's refusal to bring any pressure on the Israelis to halt their construction on Palestinian land. The reason Bush refused to make any commitment to Abbas is that Bush himself supported Israeli plans to acquire more Palestinian land.

Infamous letter

The Israelis refer to an infamous letter Bush wrote to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 and in which Bush said: "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."

On May 4, The New York Times reported that "Israeli officials say that nobody should be surprised" by the accelerated pace of settlement construction.

The lopsided relationship between Palestinians and Israelis with Washington supporting unilateral actions by Israel while claiming to be an honest broker, was dramatically illustrated by recent declarations of Israeli leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, gave this remarkable justification for new construction of new colonies. He said that Bush's letter gave Israel "permission to expand the West Bank colonies that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli colonies across Palestinian territories on the West Bank."

Thus Bush - acting as master of the world, as one Israeli official put it - gave Israel "permission" to violate international law, to ignore the international consensus about the final settlement of the conflict, and to breach the very principles on which the current negotiations are based, and which Bush rhetorically endorses.

Bush's "permission" was all the justifications and legitimacy the Israelis needed. No wonder Bush is reported by the Israeli press to be "under no illusion about peace breakthrough". The Israelis clearly are not. This leaves the Palestinians as the only party harbouring illusions about peace making.

Professor Adel Safty is author of 'From Camp David to the Gulf'. His latest book, 'Leadership and Democracy' is published in New York.