Annapolis Expectations

Update from AIJAC

November 14, 2007
Number 11/07 #05

With it looking more likely that the Annapolis meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will go ahead on schedule in the last week of November, this Update addresses changing expectations about what the gathering can realistically accomplish.

First up, Washington Institute scholar David Makovsky indicates that the nature of the goals has been more or less resolved – the meeting will be primarily about initiating a longer term negotiating process, and any declaration about final status questions will be comparatively unspecific. He says the weeks remaining until the conference will be spent focusing on chasing participation by Arab states, and on exploring a variety of mutual confidence-building steps. For this exploration of where things are going in the Annapolis run-up, CLICK HERE.

Next, Dr. Eran Lerman, former Israeli intelligence officer turned analyst for the American Jewish Committee, explores in more depth the forces on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides which provide hope for momentum but also make it unlikely things will move forward  very quickly. He particularly focuses on the personality, goals and chemistry of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but also on the political and social realities in both societies. For his detailed analysis, CLICK HERE. More on Israeli PM Olmert’s speech on the peace process last week at the Saban forum, mentioned by Lerman, is here.

Finally, former senior Israeli peace negotiator in the Oslo process Uri Savir explains his belief in the urgency of Annapolis, and what both sides must do to capitalise on the current opportunity. He particularly focuses on the efforts the Palestinians must make – in terms of the roadmap obligation against terror groups and preparing the Palestinian population for pragmatic compromises on issues like borders and the impossible “Right of Return”. For Savir’s “roadmap” to Annapolis success, CLICK HERE. The Jerusalem Post had an editorial on the psychological shift still apparently needed on the Palestinian side a few days ago. Meanwhile, columnist Rick Richman argues that Palestinian anti-terror obligations under the roadmap are being defined down.

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Annapolis and a Dual-Track Peace Process

By David Makovsky

PolicyWatch #1302, November 8, 2007

Public remarks by top U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian officials this week indicate that the character of the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis has changed. First, instead of the expected pre-conference declaration of final status — principles and conceptual tradeoffs on core issues such as Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees — Annapolis will only mark the beginning of negotiations on these issues. Second, the November conference will attempt to revive the moribund Quartet Roadmap laid out by the United States, UN, European Union, and Russia in 2003, with particular focus on the plan’s first phase: cooperative on-the-ground action by both sides to improve Palestinian security performance and curb Israeli settlement activity, among other issues. Finally, the United States will seek to use Annapolis as a means of galvanizing international support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas.

Implications of the New Agenda

For the first time since 1993, the peace process is being taken up by two leaders who seem to believe that the other side is serious about creating peace — in sharp contrast to the open enmity between their predecessors, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. It is precisely this underlying respect between Olmert and Abbas, alongside the fear of a Hamas-led alternative government, that seems to give Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hope that Annapolis will be a success.

Her most recent trip confirmed that it was impossible to score a quick, shuttle-diplomacy breakthrough based on tradeoffs on the core issues, since other factors are also at work. For example, the Palestinians insisted that they would not make concessions on the refugee issue in return for an Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank unless they received major Jerusalem concessions as well.

Now that the nature of Annapolis has been clarified, it is clear that the United States will use the intervening weeks to coax Arab states to the table. Washington will also make the case that it stands behind the improved Roadmap, with an intense focus on the first phase. But unlike the past, the parties have agreed to simultaneously negotiate the third, final-status phase while implementing the first phase. This leaves open the question of the second phase, which outlines a Palestinian state with “provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty.” Palestinians are deeply unnerved by this phase because they believe it averts the core issues of the third phase. For their part, the Israelis are wary of sacrificing territorial cards with no concessions in return.

Some argue that this new emphasis on Annapolis is a setback for Rice because the conference will not mark a breakthrough, leading many to pin their hopes on the post-Annapolis period. In response, she would likely argue that the Roadmap’s first-phase obligations will build the requisite confidence for final-status talks, thereby reinforcing the dual-track process. Conversely, if the parties cannot handle the first phase, which is predicated on behavior modification, the odds are that they would fail at the weightier final-status issues anyway. There is concern that pushing for final-status negotiations, progress on security, and settlement issues simultaneously could embolden extremists on both sides to undermine the process after Annapolis. A diplomatic breakthrough at Annapolis could have the same effect, however.

In practical terms, the dual focus of the negotiations will mean that the United States will be called on to simultaneously guide final-status talks and monitor implementation of the first phase. It is the second task that will test the United States on how to measure compliance and how to enforce judgments. The last time Washington tried to do so, in 2003, it forbade its envoy from publicizing the compliance judgments, thus eliminating the parties’ main incentive to comply.

Confidence Building Before and After Annapolis

Do the parties have the political resolve and capacity to fulfill their obligations under the first phase of the Roadmap? To demonstrate its security capabilities, the Palestinian Authority will likely emphasize its closure of more than a hundred Hamas-related charities, its warnings to 800 imams regarding radical sermons, and its very recent and novel security deployment in Nablus. But these positive developments must be viewed in light of the current situation in the West Bank — namely, Israel is in charge of the territory, and extended Palestinian security control is not the norm. In contrast, during the second half of the 1990s, when the Palestinians controlled all West Bank cities, many security violations occurred.

Regarding wider Arab participation, Washington will likely argue for a new flexibility in the Roadmap’s dual-track process to facilitate the timing of Arab initiatives. For example, if Arab states offer normalization with Israel in the early phases of the process, Israel will have extra incentive to make concessions to the Palestinians. Yet, any U.S. calls for greater Arab participation will come at a time when there are low expectations about Annapolis. Therefore, Arab states will likely press Israel for action on issues such as settlement activity or prisoner release before they can justify their presence at Annapolis. Israel will invariably cite the release of Palestinian tax revenue and the freeing of hundreds of prisoners as a sign of goodwill. There seems little doubt that the United States would like to see exchanges of confidence-building measures among all parties before the conference to improve the atmosphere at the event.

It should also be noted that President Bush repeatedly — and with little fanfare — called for a “comprehensive” Middle East peace during a recent interview with the Arab satellite channel al-Arabiya. Such language is favored by Syria, which may yet be invited to Annapolis. Although the focus of the conference is on the Palestinians, Washington believes that an invitation would give Syria an incentive to discontinue its alleged assassinations of Lebanese parliamentarians, thus enabling the ongoing Lebanese presidential election process to proceed. Nobody can prevent Syria from raising the Golan Heights issue in Annapolis, but Damascus must realize that there will no negotiations on that question at the conference.


The changing character of Annapolis is designed to avert failure or an immediate Israeli-Palestinian crisis over core issues. It remains to be seen, however, whether the United States can align expectations in the post-Annapolis process while defining itself as a monitor and arbiter in the short time before the conference. The looming deadline alone may have succeeded in producing a commitment to negotiate final-status issues, but it has not been useful in forcing decisions on core, self-defining issues. And the United States will be tested no less than the parties themselves in the post-Annapolis phase. All in all, the new dual-track process will either instill confidence in both parties and stave off the ascendancy of Hamas, or simply serve as a way of parking the Israeli-Palestinian issue until the end of the Bush administration.

David Makovsky is a senior fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute.


As we approach Annapolis: Likeminded leaders, Antagonistic professional and public attitudes

Col. Eran Lerman (ret) – Director, AJC Jerusalem/Middle East Office

American Jewish Committee Weekly briefing on Israeli and Middle Eastern Affairs, November 7, 2007

Heavily symbolic events attended the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Israel this week. Despite the shift of the official commemoration to the Hebrew calendar, it is on November 4 that most Israelis, who are old enough to remember, shiver (even in the present un-seasonal and oppressive heat wave) when the recall where they were when they heard that Yitzhak Rabin has been shot. And so it was that on Saturday night, one day short of this fateful date, a very large crowd gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to listen to the dirges and the speeches ˆ and to express their undying outrage. They were seething because the Israeli court system had failed to prevent a different ceremony, which in fact took place on November 4 – the circumcision of the assassin’s son, which was carried out in his presence within the jail walls. The gloating of his family and supporters seemed to confirm the nagging suspicion that the woman who married him – Larissa Trimbovler, a radical right winger of post Soviet origin for whom Yigal Amir was a hero precisely because of the nature of his crime – had arranged the birth by Caesarian section so as to have the happy event on this very day. As if to add insult to injury, in a soccer match in Haifa a large number of supporters of Beitar Jerusalem – a team long associated with the far right – actually booed and jeered when asked, on that day, to honor Rabin’s memory with a moment of silence. The country was rattled, and rightly so: the dark and ugly tones of the bitter days of 1995, and of the Disengagement and Amona struggles, are once again with us, and violence could again lurk behind the corner.

The tensions are rising because the nation’s leaders – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres – now seem determined once again to pursue what they describe as an opportunity to achieve a lasting peace; and in any case, to give the fast approaching “meeting” at Annapolis something of the dramatic aura of past summits, even if it is generally recognized that it can at best produce a framework for negotiations, not an agreement as such. Given the decisive nature of frameworks in such delicate negotiations – the terms of reference may, in many ways, pre-determine the outcome – this sense of approaching drama is not entirely misplaced.

The principal players, speaking at the Haim Saban forum this week – Olmert; Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas; Rice; former British prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet coordinator, representing the US, EU, Russia and UN in the effort to prepare the Palestinians for statehood – all seemed indeed to convey a like-minded orientation. This is the time; we must not miss the opportunity; we need the courage that Rabin inspired us with; if we do not take tough decisions now, a younger generation may fall into the clutches of radicals. True, the Palestinian leadership is weak, and ready to admit that it is (a sharp-tongued but effective Israeli observer, Dan Schueftan, calls Abbas a “mere rumor”) and Olmert faces grave problems of his own – but they at least share a common view of regional and world affairs, as well as a degree of personal sympathy towards each other which was never there when Yasser Arafat played his games. Can this be translated into an understanding of lasting value?

Perhaps; if all sides soberly assess what can be achieved, the summit might yet produce an atmosphere of cooperation helping the US in the pursuit of highly significant struggles ˆ to reverse Iran‚s nuclear program, stabilize Iraq, prevent Syria from having her way in Lebanon, and undo the Hamas takeover in Gaza. But on both sides, internal and professional dynamics, as well as mounting political pressures, are casting a long shadow. Basic and dominant urges are pulling the professionals apart, limiting the leaders‚ options:

  • On the Israeli side, the various members of the powerful defense and intelligence establishment distrust the prospect of concessions at this stage, when there is no proof of any Palestinian capacity or will to control terror. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the leader of the Labor Party (but now well to the right of Olmert on these issues) is giving them voice, both in public and behind closed doors. The deployment of a few hundred Palestinian “police” (i.e., armed forces) to Nablus this week – where they are expected to restrain Hamas and PIJ activists – may provide such proof. It may also fail. The IDF, in any case, still operates there, and may soon need to go into Gaza again, as the Qassam rockets continue to fall. Under such circumstances, Israeli professionals, who feel that their mission is to provide security and safety, are wary of further Palestinian advances towards the heart of Israel. True, Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni have made it clear that the actual implementation of any agreement reached in the negotiations, after Annapolis, will be held up until the Palestinians fulfil their Road Map obligation to fight terror. But the soldiers fear, with some reason, that once the future is determined, the world will make short work of Israel‚s concerns about the present.
  •  On the Palestinian side, meanwhile, an equally fundamental urge is to gain the upper hand in terms of “International Legitimacy” (al-shar‚iyyah al-duwwaliyyah) and use powerful legal tools to balance Israel‚s military, economic and political superiority. This is a natural course of action for the weak and for those whose ethos has come to center upon sacrifice and victimhood; but it tends to produce, again and again – whenever a whiff of international “coercion” may be in the air – an addiction to clever litigious attitudes, “nailing” Israel in front of the so-called “Court of World Opinion”, rather than the conciliatory skills of business lawyers, seeking a good deal for both sides. Hence the refusal to accept Israel’s nature as a Jewish State (which Olmert declared he would insist on, side by side with his ringing endorsement of the “Two State Solution”). Hence also the unbending insistence on a total withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the re-carving of Jerusalem, and on a form of words which will require Israel to take responsibility for the refugees. These are non-starters, which the clever young women and men surrounding Abbas‚ team fail to recognize: they are energetically digging a tunnel, but at the wrong direction; and instead of seeking a compromise with Israel, they are busy undermining it.

Meanwhile, the Israeli far right is mobilizing for a decisive battle: Olmert‚s commitment to uphold the Road Map commitments, implying the removal of unauthorized outposts, may bring the moment of confrontation closer. On the Palestinian side, the Hamas leaders – Gaza “Prime Minister” Ismail Hanniyah in restrained terms, Khalid Mash‚al in Damascus in fiery rhetoric promising violent clashes  warn against any concessions of any sort to the purportedly weak and broken “Zionist Enemy”. When this happens at this stage, clearly the stakes are getting dangerously high. In our corner of the world, this will not be the first time that unfounded hopes end up procuring havoc.

But this need not be the case. At Camp David 2000, Arafat stomped out to seek a war. Abbas and Fayyad wil not do so, if they can find a bit of language to latch on to (“an end to the occupation” – which in any case will end one day, even if by annexation). A large package of gestures – military, economic, and the release of prisoners – will mitigate an uncertain outcome. If the Arab states who would be present at Annapolis, and in particular, Jordan, do make the choice to support this type of inconclusive outcome, which will serve their interests, they may prevent a crisis and neutralize some of the passions which Annapolis may arouse.


What the Palestinians must do


Jerusalem Post, Nov 13, 2007 19:22
It is essential that the impending regional meeting in Annapolis be successful. Failure at Annapolis would translate into a victory for the extremist elements in Israel, Palestine and throughout the region. Without success at Annapolis the next phase of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship will find a far less forthcoming Israeli government squaring off against an implacable Hamas.

So it is essential that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his ministers and advisers act now. Israel must create a solid groundwork for permanent status negotiations. We must set the stage for a two-state solution, an end to the occupation, a dramatic redeployment of the settlements into several settlement blocs and, most importantly, we must pursue a relationship based on trust, respect and equality with the Palestinians.

Ehud Olmert must understand that only through such an approach can Israel strengthen Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the Fatah Party; and doing so is absolutely in our interest.

I have had the privilege of getting to know Abu Mazen and Abu Ala (Ahmed Qurei) well. In addition to what Israel must do to bolster these good men, I believe they can and must do much more to strengthen themselves and their camp.

To insist that strengthening Fatah is the task of Israel alone is paternalistic. Only an internal political process can strengthen the Palestinian peace camp so that it can better manage Palestinian affairs. And nothing can strengthen Abu Mazen more than success at Annapolis.

To that end, the Palestinian leadership must aim for a substantive Annapolis declaration with Israel, offering a timeline for negotiations – say, about one year. So now is the time for the Palestinian side to bite the bullet, to set forth realistic positions in order to find a common platform with Israel.

HERE IS what I believe the Palestinians must do:

Road map. The Palestinians must implement the first phase of the road map and uproot violence from their midst. The struggle against terrorism and the terrorist infrastructure must be relentless and ongoing. This should be done not as a “goodwill” gesture toward Israel, but because it is in the supreme interest of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian leadership has said it wants a single security force under one wing of its government, without militias or terrorist groups competing for power. Now is the time to act on that stated commitment. Plainly, a single armed force is a precondition for a viable democratic state.

Borders. The Palestinians rightly insist that the borders of a new Palestinian state should be based on the 1949 armistice lines. However, they should also agree to mutual modifications in order to have Israel retain several settlement blocs in its own territory.

Right of return. This is without a doubt the most difficult challenge for the Palestinians. Here I urge my Palestinian friends to be pragmatic. Even the most moderate Israelis, myself included, vehemently opposes the influx of millions of Palestinian refugees or their descendents into sovereign Israel.

Palestinians should have the right of return to their own nation state – Palestine. Some would receive compensation and others would be resettled under various refugee programs in a number countries. Israel might permit, in the course of future talks, some refugees to settle on its territory. But the Palestinian leadership must finally tell its people that adhering to the right of return as an ideology would torpedo any hopes for a negotiated settlement with Israel.

Jerusalem. The Palestinians will justifiably insist on a capital in the Arab-populated neighborhoods of Jerusalem, yet they should agree to postpone the final details of the future of the holy sites to permanent status negotiations.

The Palestinian side should cooperate with Israel in two critical areas: economics and security.

Only by working together via open borders can we witness an improvement of the existing economic conditions for Palestinians, and of economic growth that would benefit both peoples. Yet for there to be a free flow of people, Israelis must feel certain that their lives will not again be placed in jeopardy by terrorism.

Security cooperation must be renewed. Israel will not tolerate terror against any Israelis. And terrorism is also a threat on the authority of the Palestinian leadership.

IT IS TIME for both Israelis and Palestinians to pursue a policy of realpolitik. Israel must make painful concessions, and so must the Palestinian side. Israel must strengthen Abu Mazen, and Abu Mazen must strengthen himself and his party. It will be a challenge. But I genuinely believe that both Abu Mazen and Olmert understand the importance of this opportunity, and I hope – for the sake of both our peoples – that our leaders will act accordingly.

Annapolis must be successful. It must provide a solid and implementable basis for real peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and act as an impetus for regional peace.

The writer is the president of the Peres Center for Peace.