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US President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seemed to have managed another impossible feat today: A joint Israeli-Palestinian declaration. George W. was going to get his declaration, come hell or high-water, and he got it, in the best East Texas tradition. We should have known that going in. The significance of the Annapolis meeting and the declaration for the Middle East policy of the United States is clear. It is meant to get the Israeli-Palestinian conflict out of the way so that the administration can deal with Iraq and Iran. The significance, if any, of this declaration for Israel and the Palestinians may only be apparent in a year or two.

History rarely feels like history when you are living through it. When Anwar Sadat stepped out of the airplane in Lod airport thirty years ago we were witnessing history, and it felt like it. When Arafat and Rabin shook hands on the White House Lawn, we thought we were witnessing a miracle. Instead, we got what we got.

Either we have witnessed history today or we passed another milestone on the road that is paved with good intentions and leads to you know where. A year or two hence, we shall either have a miracle or a bigger mess. To judge from past experience and prospects, the best case scenario is that we will have a slightly bigger mess. There were joint declarations in the past - notably the Sharm El Sheikh summit declarations of 2000 -- empty statements that led no place quickly.

This declaration skirted most of the issues of contention that were apparent in the earlier Israeli and Palestinian drafts. But if it is implemented, it is not spin. It has significant content. "Significant" can be dangerous. It included some explosive wording at the insistence of the United States. The sides have agreed, once again, to implement the roadmap. "There is no god but the roadmap." But the sides have also agreed that the United States will monitor roadmap performance. "George Bush is the prophet of the roadmap." They agreed that they will negotiate a peace agreement, addressing all the core issues.

Implementation of the agreement depends on whether or not the United States believes the sides have implemented the roadmap. And that depends on what? There are no objective criteria for judging roadmap performance. How many suicide attacks and Qassam rockets constitute violation of the roadmap? If the Hamas is still in power in Gaza in a year or two, still threatening to take over the West Bank, does Israel nonetheless have to allow creation of a Palestinian state? Only George Bush or his successor might know the answer to that.

Mahmoud Abbas wanted core issues, so he got the mention of core issues. There was no mention of any principles that would be applied in deciding these issues. Does anyone believe that Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert can deliver the necessary compromises on the core issues, or that they even want to do so? And if nothing comes of these negotiations, or worse than nothing, then what? Someone will have to deal with the consequences, but the Bush administration will not have to worry about it.

It is going to be difficult to bring peace to the Middle East, and it requires a serious effort, not more paper. We have enough paper and words. This statement doesn't look like an honest attempt to tackle the issues, but rather like a necessary after-dinner address or Oscar awards acceptance speech. Perhaps it is like the fictitious speeches inserted by ancient historians, which put words in the mouths of emperors and generals, either to reflect what the author thought they would have said, or to reflect what he thought they ought to have said. The history of the Middle East would then become a novel written by George Bush. But it is not fiction, and it can have consequences. It can be nothing, or it can be the knell that summons us to heaven or to hell.

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."

Original content is Copyright by the author 2007. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000455.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 1 Comment

I am from the US and all I can say to Israel is watch out. The Palestinians don't care about anything but getting rid of all Jews. My prayers are with you and I know that G-d will have the final say. I wish Bush would read the Book.

Margie Creech, Saturday, December 1st

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