The Annapolis Conference

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VOL. 37

2007/2008

No. 3
P. 74
Special Document File
The Annapolis Conference
ABSTRACT

A. Israel and the PLO, “Joint Understanding,” Presented to the Annapolis Conference by U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, 27 November 2007 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

B. U.S. Pres. George W. Bush, Opening Statement to the Annapolis Conference, 27 November 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

C. Palestinian Pres. Mahmud Abbas, Statement to the Annapolis Conference, 27 November 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

D. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, Statement to the Annapolis Conference, 27 November 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

E. Israeli FM Tzipi Livni, Statement to the Annapolis Conference, 27 November 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

F. Saudi FM Saud al-Faisal, Statement to the Annapolis Conference, 27 November 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

G. U.S. Secy. of State Condoleezza Rice, Closing Remarks to the Annapolis Conference, 27 November 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . 89

H. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, Cabinet Report on Annapolis, 2 December 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

I. Israeli FM Tzipi Livni, Cabinet Report on Annapolis, 2 December 2007 (excerpts) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91

In late spring 2007, the George W. Bush administration decided to launch a new effort to promote calm in the Middle East, including pressing for a halt to violence on the Palestine front and a revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in hopes of stabilizing Iraq in time for an interim report to Congress on the troop surge scheduled for September 2007. The Hamas-Fatah clashes, culminating in Fatah’s ouster from the Gaza Strip on 15 June, delayed the planned peace initiative but also underlined the importance of containing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The administration viewed the break between Hamas and Fatah as a new opportunity to promote Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas’s leadership of the West Bank as a model for future Palestinian governance, to underscore the benefits of political moderation over Islamist extremism, and ideally to result in an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty that would be the capstone of the Bush presidency. With these objectives in mind, President Bush made a major policy speech on 16 July outlining his “West Bank first” vision and calling for an international summit in fall 2007 to relaunch the Israeli-Palestinian final status negotiations, suspended since 2001 (see Doc. C3 in JPS 145). The terms of reference of those negotiations had been the Oslo accords (see the Special Document section of JPS 89). The Annapolis summit illustrated the extent of the transformation of the terms of reference for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

President Bush’s call for a summit took the Palestinians by surprise, and although Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been briefed, he had not given his endorsement. Only after his 16 July address did Bush phone Abbas and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to discuss the idea. While Abbas welcomed a summit, hoping it would produce a detailed timeline and work plan for concluding and implementing a final status accord, Olmert quickly acted to limit the scope of any talks, proposing the start of negotiations for an agreement of general principles to guide future final status talks (see Quarterly Update in JPS 145). In September, the United States persuaded Abbas and Olmert to form teams to draft a joint declaration presenting a common vision for advancing the peace process. Fundamental gaps remained between the two sides. Several times over the last months it seemed unlikely that the conference would take place. Outside observers were skeptical about the summit; a number of prominent former policymakers laid out what they saw as fundamental prerequisites for a meaningful conference (see Doc. D3 in JPS 146 ).

Meanwhile, the United States deployed diplomatic efforts to secure the widest possible attendance by Arab states, which, led by Saudi Arabia, had threatened not to attend unless the summit were to be serious and substantive and produce a clear vision of the endgame. Of the Arab states invited, only Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya did not attend the conference held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, on 27 November. Syria had initially insisted that the Golan Heights be placed on the agenda, agreeing to attend only after discussion of a “comprehensive Middle East peace” was included, during which the Golan issue could be raised (see Quarterly Updates in JPS 146 and this issue).

In all, representatives of more than 40 countries and international organizations representing the Quartet, major donors, the Arab and Muslim world, and the wider international community attended. Bush opened the conference by reading a “joint agreement” hastily finalized by the Israeli and Palestinian teams less than an hour earlier (see Quarterly Update for details). An open plenary session followed, during which Bush, Abbas, Olmert, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, among others, gave formal addresses. In the afternoon, three closed-door sessions were held to discuss Israeli-Palestinian issues, economic support to the Palestinian Authority, and “comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace."