The Annapolis Meeting: Background and Expectations
The Annapolis Meeting: Background and ExpectationsBy Eran LermanDirector, Israel/Middle East OfficeAmerican Jewish Committee
JERUSALEM, November 25, 2007
—The meeting to be convened by the United States inAnnapolis, Maryland, on November 27 to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace will bring together President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anda growing list of senior Arab dignitaries.Although characterized as a meeting rather than a peace conference or summit, in an effort tomanage expectations, the event represents a significant step by the United States and by theelected Israeli and Palestinian leadership. Against formidable obstacles, progress can be made.But by design and by necessity, Annapolis will not be Camp David. This will be an event in whichpositions are set forth, and gestures will be made or hinted to, and made by, the internationalcommunity and a number of Arab states. It will not be an event in which the principal playersburrow into forced seclusion in the woods to resolve the key issues in contention. Those difficultdiscussions will come later.Unlike Camp David One, in the summer of 1978 (Menahem Begin; Anwar Sadat; Jimmy Carter),it is unrealistic to expect that Annapolis will yield a major breakthrough leading to a peaceagreement in several months – made possible by equally breathtaking Israel concessions. Theapocalyptic imagery of a massive sell-out, emanating from spokesmen on the far Right, is drivenby largely baseless fears. Annapolis will launch a long and complex process, which is unlikely toproduce a Permanent Status Agreement within the time left for the Bush Administration.At the same time, unlike Camp David Two, in the summer of 2000 (Ehud Barak; Yasir Arafat; BillClinton), this is equally unlikely to end with a loud bang of slammed doors, as mournful voices onthe far Left have warned. It is unlikely that Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, aneconomist focused on the well-being of his people, are going to Annapolis to stage a dramaticfailure in which they will blame Israel and America, igniting Arafat-style violence (which after all,proved to be disastrously futile) and calling on “the World” to intervene.What does Annapolis signify, then? In essence, four departures – for better or worse – from therealities of recent years:A direct leap to the Permanent Status negotiations, thus – in effect – canceling a key feature of the Road Map, namely Stage Two, which envisioned a Palestinian State with ProvisionalBorders. This was a prospect nominally accepted but rejected in practice by the Palestinian side.It greatly frightened Abbas, who had reason to suspect the permanence of all Middle Eastern“provisional” measures. The willingness, originally suggested by Foreign Minister Livni andeagerly adopted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to forgo the Road map sequence of negotiations by stages (but insist on it later, when we come to implementation) was in itself amajor Israeli concession; Abbas earned it by right of his forthright stand against Hamas, andagainst the violent aspects (if not the national goals) of Arafat’s legacy.