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Annapolis Summit: History or bluff?


In retrospect, everything that happened at the Annapolis Maryland peace summit, everything that we all said could not happen, looks as though it were inevitable, doesn't it? And yet, what did happen? Did the Arab states make a strong commitment to peace with Israel? Not that anyone mentioned yet. Did Israel agree to give up the occupation or any part of it? Did the Palestinians agree to compromise on any issues so that a working agreement is possible? Did anyone suggest a way to deal with the problem of the Hamas? They are there, in Gaza, but you would hardly know it from the public statements of the sides. In fact, did anyone say anything that was not said before? Perhaps and perhaps not.

There were speeches, and photo-opportunities, and a declaration. "Mission accomplished" - the Bush administration can show that there is "progress" on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and now they can turn to Iraq and Iran.

But what progress was there? What is the difference between the Annapolis verbiage and the statements at the Sharm El Sheikh summit of 2000? -- Those were empty statements that led to some some empty reports, all of which led to nothing but more misery and violence.

George Bush noted, in an AP interview, that it would take time for Israelis and Palestinians to reach an agreement. That is a vast and ambiguous understatement. It also took time to form the Grand Canyon. What is supposed to happen in the next 14 months that did not happen since the signing of the Oslo accords? Why is this conference different from all other conferences? Promises were made then as now. Promises are made to be broken it seems.

It will take more than time to make peace. It requires a serious effort, not more speeches and papers. We have enough paper and words. A joint Israeli-Palestinian statement was demanded and a joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration was duly produced. The vast chasms that divide the sides were bridged simply by omitting them. The only side that really got what they wanted was the Americans. Word for word, the declaration included the explosive wording that the Americans had "suggested" in the draft agreement. The sides have agreed, once again, to implement the road map. This is according to a well known ritual, like the Muslim Shihadah (profession of faith) but with a briefer tradition. At all such gatherings since the road map was announced, the sides must recite at every meeting: "There is no God but the road map." But the sides have also agreed that the United States will monitor road map performance. "George Bush is the prophet of the road map." They agreed that they will negotiate a peace agreement, addressing all the core issues, but implementation of such an agreement, if ever one is reached, depends on whether or not the Americans feel that the road map is being implemented. What can this mean? What it doesn't mean is this. Suppose that everyone agrees there must be a Palestinian state, and agrees on the borders of the state and all other issues, but Israel has not removed any illegal outposts or made any other commitments. Is America going to say that the Palestinians can't have a state because Israel didn't fulfill the road map? Of course not. So what it means is that the Palestinians get a state if George Bush thinks they deserve one. On the face of it, there are no penalties for Israel, but of course the US has huge leverage over Israel if it chooses to use it. Would it choose to use it?

On the face of it, the Palestinians get a state only if they can put their house in order and stop terror. But only the United States decides how many suicide bombings are too many, and how many guns in the hands of Al-Aqsa or Hamas "militants" (read: gangsters) prevent an agreement. On the face of it, the Americans have huge leverage over the Palestinian side, since they can cut off aid and deny them a state. But that would only lead to the fall of Abbas and Salem Fayyad and their replacement by more obstinate factions, so it is doubtful if the US can use that leverage. And if Abbas gets his Palestinian state, and it is immediately overrun by the Hamas, won't he be like the dog who chased the postal truck every day and finally caught it?

The joint statement also calls for continuous negotiations. But what can come of these negotiations? Each day the Palestinians will say, "We want right of return and all of Jerusalem." Each day the Israeli side will say, "Nice to see you again. We are releasing some prisoners." And each night, the IDF will replenish the store of militants in overnight raids. Does the peace process lose its flavor in the violence overnight? When the farce has gone on long enough, will the Americans step in and apply pressure? And what will happen then?

The joint statement doesn't look like an honest attempt to tackle the issues. There are no principles or framework for the agreement that is to be negotiated. There are no criteria to judge roadmap performance. The speeches sound like ceremonial after-dinner addresses or Oscar awards acceptance speeches. We heard them all before. Perhaps it is all like the fictitious speeches inserted by ancient historians in their tales. These put words in the mouths of emperors and generals, either to reflect what the author thought they would have said, or to reflect what the author thought they ought to have said. From the point of view of the State Department and the American public, the history of the Middle East is a sort of historical novel scripted by their speechwriters. For Americans, it is a version of West Wing. But over here it is not fiction, and it can and does have consequences.

Ami Isseroff

Joint Israeli-Palestinian Declaration at Annapolis, November 27, 2007

Following is the text of the Joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration at the Annapolis Md. peace conference, November 27, 2007, as read by US President George W. Bush:

"The representatives of the government of the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, represented respectively by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, in his capacity as chairman of the PLO executive committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, have convened in Annapolis, Maryland, under the auspices of President George W. Bush of the United States of America, and with the support of the participants of this international conference having concluded the following joint understanding:

"We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis."

"In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral [negotiations] in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements.

"We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."

"For this purpose, a steering committee led jointly be the head of the delegation of each party will meet continuously as agreed.

"The steering committee will develop a joint work plan and establish and oversee the work of negotiations teams to address all issues, to be headed by one lead representative from each party.

"The first session of the steering committee will be held on 12 December, 2007.

"President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert will continue to meet on a biweekly basis to follow up the negotiations in order to offer all necessary assistance for their advancement.

"The parties also commit to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict issued by the Quartet on 30 April, 2003" - this is called the road map - "and agree to form an American, Palestinian and Israeli mechanism led by the United States to follow up on the implementation of the road map.

"The parties further commit to continue the implementation of the ongoing obligations of the road map until they reach a peace treaty. The United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map.

"Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the road map, as judged by the United States."

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Replies: 1 Comment

Now that Annapolis is over and a very watered -down general statement agreed by both the Israeli and Palestinian delegation was made. Nothing of substance has come out of the summit. The general statement contains home truths compatible to both sides. No obligations, no discussion of “core issues” was mentioned in the general statement. This is far short of a Declaration of Principles that somehow did not get off the ground. There was so much missing in the Annapolis Summit that our predictions of a renewal of peace negotiations and solving “core issues” remain very much undecided and undefined. One can hardly call the Annapolis Summit a success. Strangely enough, one can hardly call it a total failure as well. The fact that so many Arab states and other interested parties were present is significant but its relevancy in real terms remains to be seen. There is not much room for optimism at all. If the two-state solution is unattainable, this may become an impetus for discussions on a one-state solution in the not too distant future. There are signs of discussions of that in various academic forums. This could gain momentum.

Posted by Shimon Z. Klein @ 11/29/2007 02:07 PM CST

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