Commentaries on the Annapolis Conference Regarding Israel and Palestine

November 17th, 2007 - by admin

Washington Post & International Crisis Group & IWC & Tehran Times – 2007-11-17 22:13:53

Abbas Sees Palestinian State Soon Achievable
Leader Says Success Possible in Bush Term

Karen DeYoung / Washington Post

RAMALLAH, West Bank, (November 6, 2007) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that he believes the path to peace with Israel is now clear and that a Palestinian state can be achieved before the end of the Bush administration in January 2009.

Echoing a statement made Sunday night by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas said that an upcoming peace conference in Annapolis would mark the start of serious negotiations over core issues that have posed insurmountable obstacles for decades — the status of Jerusalem, the borders of Israel and Palestine, the removal of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the rights claimed by Palestinian refugees who left or were forced from their homes when the state of Israel was established.

Abbas praised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s efforts and her “insistence on . . . concluding peace within the presidential term of Mr. Bush.” Her persistence, he said, had turned the Annapolis conference into “a serious occasion to launch a genuine peace process.”

The statements by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders exceeded Rice’s most optimistic expectations for a diplomatic effort that appeared to be faltering as recently as last week. The leaders’ agreement to attend the conference and their professed optimism are likely to open the door for Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, to take part.

“It is a historic time, a time of real opportunity,” said Rice, standing alongside Abbas at a news conference here. The negotiations, she said, “could achieve their goal within the time remaining within the Bush administration.”

Others, while claiming genuine progress, were less certain of where it would lead. One senior State Department official, recalling decades of dashed hopes, cautioned that “you never say never in the Middle East. You’ve always got to be ready for bad news.”

It was similarly unclear whether Olmert and Abbas, both of whom are politically weak, will be able to carry others along with them.

“The assumption on this side is that the Palestinians can’t deliver,” said one Israeli Labor Party lawmaker. “Speeches are wonderful, but we have heard speeches for too long.”

The Palestinians, riven by their own differences and long suspicious of US intentions, set the bar similarly high. Abbas had told Rice, Palestinian officials said, that they expected substantive agreement on key issues within six months after the Annapolis meeting, expected to be held in the last week in November or soon after.

Abbas noted that Olmert, in a nationally televised speech Sunday night, had said that “all issues” between them would ultimately be on the table. “I agree with Prime Minister Olmert that this is a real opportunity to achieve peace,” Abbas said.

Rice’s last trip to the region only three weeks ago — her seventh this year — appeared to leave her Annapolis proposal in limbo as preparatory talks became mired in procedural as well as substantive disputes.

Revisiting old arguments, the Israelis wanted the conference to begin with a general statement of “intentions” for future talks. The Palestinians demanded a specific agenda, with an agreed timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The divisions were finessed in proposals last week and firmed up during Rice’s visit. Instead of beginning with a negotiating agenda, Annapolis would end with one. “The day after” Annapolis, Rice said Sunday, would be the first day of direct negotiations toward Palestinian statehood.

To build public support and enable both sides to approach Annapolis with momentum, Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to begin implementing confidence-building measures that were agreed on years ago but that never got off the ground.

The Palestinians have moved to deploy more police, with more aggressive mandates, against extremists in several West Bank cities, a process that began last weekend in Nablus. Israel reportedly intends to release an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners.

Both sides want more results before Annapolis. For his part, Abbas on Monday enumerated Palestinian demands that will be difficult for Israel to meet in more than a symbolic way, including a halt to all West Bank settlement construction and the reopening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem.

At the news conference, Abbas also listed “the need for Israelis to commit to stopping military aggression” in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel, he said, must also agree not to prohibit food, medicine, electricity and water from reaching the Gaza Strip, which was forcibly seized last summer by the Hamas movement that has challenged Abbas’s leadership. Palestinian fighters continue to launch rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel.

Despite worries about whether enough will be accomplished over the next several weeks, Rice appeared content to bask in a rare moment of at least temporary success. “I am quite confident that the will is there on both sides,” she said. “People want us to end this conflict.”

Bipartisan Foreign Policy Leaders on Annapolis Conference
Prospects for

Below is the full text of a letter just released to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as part of an effort supported by the US/Middle East Project, Inc., the International Crisis Group, and the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program. The letter is signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee H. Hamilton, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Thomas R. Pickering, Brent Scowcroft, Theodore C. Sorensen and Paul Volcker. It is an initiative that I am very involved with and keen to encourage.

The statement correctly identifies that after seven lean years of disengagement from peace efforts, the November conference creates both opportunity and risks. The administration is finally showing some political will to move on Middle East peacemaking. It must now combine that with political skill to achieve positive results and a good place to start would be a listening to the wise and experienced counsel of the letter’s signatories.

The text provides reasonable, meaningful and sufficiently detailed suggested language for an agreement that could be announced at the conference. It suggests that if the parties cannot reach this bilaterally, then the international Quartet, led by the US, should step in with bridging proposals along these lines. The authors explain that to invite Syria to attend the conference is a useful, but insufficient step that needs to be backed up by “genuine engagement.”

Likewise, dialogue with Hamas (led by others, not the US) is preferable to isolation and should begin with a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel (as advocated here on ProspectsforPeace). Most importantly, the statement conveys an understanding of how the different issues are inter-related and connects the dots for the administration on a process that deals with substance, is inclusive, and delivers visible improvements on the ground for both sides. A diplomatic gauntlet has been placed at the door of the administration. Now, they must rise to the occasion.

The full text follows:


The following letter on the Middle East peace conference scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland in late November, was addressed by its signatories to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The statement is a joint initiative of the US/Middle East Project, Inc., the International Crisis Group, and the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace conference announced by President Bush and scheduled for November presents a genuine opportunity for progress toward a two-state solution. The Middle East remains mired in its worst crisis in years, and a positive outcome of the conference could play a critical role in stemming the rising tide of instability and violence. Because failure risks devastating consequences in the region and beyond, it is critically important that the conference succeed.

Bearing in mind the lessons of the last attempt at Camp David seven years ago at dealing with the fundamental political issues that divide the two sides, we believe that in order to be successful, the outcome of the conference must be substantive, inclusive and relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians:

The international conference should deal with the substance of a permanent peace: Because a comprehensive peace accord is unattainable by November, the conference should focus on the endgame and endorse the contours of a permanent peace, which in turn should be enshrined in a Security Council resolution. Israeli and Palestinian leaders should strive to reach such an agreement. If they cannot, the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN Secretary General)—under whose aegis the conference ought to be held— should put forward its own outline, based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Clinton parameters of 2000, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the 2003 Roadmap. It should reflect the following:

• Two states, based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon modifications as expressed in a 1:1 land swap;

• Jerusalem as home to two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty;

• Special arrangements for the Old City, providing each side control of its respective holy places and unimpeded access by each community to them;

• A solution to the refugee problem that is consistent with the two-state solution, addresses the Palestinian refugees’ deep sense of injustice as well as provides them with meaningful financial compensation and resettlement assistance;

• Security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty.

The conference should not be a one-time affair. It should set in motion credible and sustained permanent status negotiations under international supervision and with a timetable for their completion, so that both a two-state solution and the Arab peace initiative’s full potential (normal, peaceful relations between Israel and all Arab states) can be realized.

The international conference should be inclusive:

• In order to enhance Israel’s confidence in the process, Arab states that currently do not enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel should attend the conference.

• We commend the administration for its decision to invite Syria to the conference; it should be followed by genuine engagement.

A breakthrough on this track could profoundly alter the regional landscape. At a minimum, the conference should launch Israeli-Syrian talks under international auspices.

• As to Hamas, we believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation; it could be conducted, for example, by the UN and Quartet Middle East envoys.

Promoting a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza would be a good starting point.

The international conference should produce results relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians: Too often in the past, progress has been stymied by the gap between lofty political statements and dire realities on the ground. The conference therefore should also result in agreement on concrete steps to improve living conditions and security, including a mutual and comprehensive cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza, an exchange of prisoners, prevention of weapons smuggling, cracking down on militias, greater Palestinian freedom of movement, the removal of unjustified checkpoints, dismantling of Israeli outposts, and other tangible measures to accelerate the process of ending the occupation.

Of utmost importance, if the conference is to have any credibility, it must coincide with a freeze in Israeli settlement expansion. It is impossible to conduct a serious discussion on ending the occupation while settlement construction proceeds apace. Efforts also should focus on alleviating the situation in Gaza and allowing the resumption of its economic life.

These three elements are closely interconnected; one cannot occur in the absence of the others. Unless the conference yields substantive results on permanent status, neither side will have the motivation or public support to take difficult steps on the ground. If Syria or Hamas are ostracized, prospects that they will play a spoiler role increase dramatically. This could take the shape of escalating violence from the West Bank or from Gaza, either of which would overwhelm any political achievement, increase the political cost of compromises for both sides and negate Israel’s willingness or capacity to relax security restrictions. By the same token, a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas’s cooperation. And unless both sides see concrete improvements in their lives, political agreements are likely to be dismissed as mere rhetoric, further undercutting support for a two-state solution.

The fact that the parties and the international community appear—after a long, costly seven-year hiatus—to be thinking of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is welcome news. Because the stakes are so important, it is crucial to get it right. That means having the ambition as well as the courage to chart new ground and take bold steps.

• Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter
• Lee H. Hamilton, former Congressman and Co-chair of the Iraq Study Group
• Carla Hills, former US Trade Representative under President George H.W. Bush
• Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, former Senator
• Thomas R. Pickering, former Under-Secretary of State
• Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford and President George H.W. Bush
• Theodore C. Sorensen, former Special Counsel and Adviser to President John F. Kennedy
• Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System

IWC Position on the Annapolis Conference
The International Women’s Conference

The International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace (IWC) recognizes that the US-sponsored Annapolis conference scheduled to take place in November could provide a unique opportunity to end the occupation and to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is concerned, however, that if the meeting is not used to launch expeditious negotiations on all outstanding issues within a clear time frame, it will not succeed. Failure will have disastrous results for both peoples and the region as a whole.

The IWC views the adoption of a new, embracing, consultative approach, replacing the failed one dominated by men guided by military perspectives, as imperative at this critical juncture to achieve our common vision of a dignified existence free of fear and want. The only way to achieve human security and the right to life with dignity is to end the occupation through a negotiated agreement on all remaining permanent settlement issues.

The Arab League Initiative provides the essential framework for freedom for Palestine, legitimacy for Israel, normalization of relations in the region, and human security for all.

Previous experience shows that general statements lacking specific substance are a prescription for further deterioration. What is needed now is a detailed framework for ending the occupation and creating an independent Palestine alongside Israel on the 1967 borders, with two capitals for two states in Jerusalem.

Implementation of these understandings must be monitored by the international community with verification and arbitration mechanisms according to a strict and speedy timetable. Only a political solution will resolve the extensive humanitarian crisis and the perpetuation of the conflict.

The international community, along with the majority of the publics in Israel and Palestine, recognizes the need to move urgently, directly, and firmly to final status negotiations now. Civil society in both communities continues to play an important role in promoting this objective.

The IWC calls on the leaders of Israel, Palestine and the international community, in accord with UNSC Resolution 1325, to grant the IWC consultative status as a way of incorporating women into negotiations and taking into account our perspective in order to ensure the achievement of a substantive, comprehensive, and lasting peace.

The IWC appeals to the international community and to the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as to civil society in both communities, to join together in an inclusive and transparent effort to extricate us from the shackles of the past and help us create a just and peaceful future based on the principles of justice, equality, tolerance and mutual respect.

The International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace (IWC) is a body of Israeli, Palestinian, and international women established in 2005 under the auspices of UNIFEM in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
• IWC International Coordinator:, Telefax: +44-20-7839-3659
• IWC Israeli Coordinator:, Telefax: +972-2-563-7633
• IWC Palestinian Coordinator:, Telefax: +972-2-297-4650

The Annapolis Conference and Challenges
Hassan Hanizadeh / Opinion, Tehran Times

TEHRAN (November 8, 2007) — Large-scale military strikes against the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip by the Zionist regime along with tough economic sanctions hint that the Palestinian people are facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Zionist regime, which declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity on September 19 under the pretext that resistance forces fire Qassam rockets into Jewish settlements in southern Occupied Lands, has enforced a collective punishment against the inhabitants of the seaside strip which is considered the largest “open prison” on the earth.

Since economic sanctions and blocking international aid to the Gaza Strip have failed to cause a crack in the will of the people to resist occupation, the Zionist army has reinforced its attacks against the people especially as the US is preparing to host a so-called Middle East conference in late November or December in Annapolis, Maryland.

One of the reasons behind the extreme violence against the Gaza residents originates from the Hamas government’s opposition to any conference without outlining an acceptable plan for resolving the Palestinian people’s problems.

Despite the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has announced his readiness to attend the conference, the Zionist regime has strongly rejected a proposed a six-month timeline to discuss in detail the prospects for establishing a Palestinian state.

While the US, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority are trying to isolate the democratically-elected government of Hamas, President George W. Bush has proposed to grant a $440 million aid to Palestinian Authority with the aim of brokering a deal between Israel and Palestine, and strengthening the PA.

The aid proposal has been submitted to the Congress which is expected to be okayed before the autumn conference would be held.

The US discriminatory approach toward Palestine and its support for one faction against the other shows that Bush is trying to create a situation for normalization of ties between the Zionist regime and most of the Arab states before the end of his presidency in 2008.

Being aware of the plot, the Hamas government has announced its opposition to the Annapolis conference and insists on its position despite all military and economic pressures.

Now the Gaza Strip with a 1.5 million population is considered the last stronghold of the Palestinian resistance, and if this bastion collapses the Palestinian nation will not definitely be able to attain its legitimate rights through peace conferences.

Such conferences are surely arranged to provide security for the Zionist regime and break up the psychological hurdles for an open relation between Arabs and Israel. But despite all the hardship and problems created by regional and extra-regional powers, the Palestinian resistance groups will never allow the political compromises between the US and Arabs to determine the destiny of Palestinian nation.

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