Palestine – Obama utters the magic word “Annapolis”

March 25, 2013 by David Singer
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President Obama’s use of just one word – “Annapolis” – stands out among the thousands he uttered during his three day visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.

His highly significant use of this keyword on 21 March at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre constituted a diplomatic milestone in America’s quest to end the long running Jewish-Arab conflict.

I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin –reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets.

What were the “credible proposals” made to the Palestinians at Annapolis?

Why was the mention of “Annapolis” thought far more important to include in  President Obama’ speech – rather than “Camp David” and the attempts to broker a two-state solution between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat by President Clinton in 2000?

The answer is to be found in the following statement made by Israel’s then Prime Minister – Ehud Olmert – at the international conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007 in Annapolis in the presence of some 40 world leaders including many from the Arab world:

The (resumption of) negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.

On conclusion of the negotiations, I believe that we will be able to reach an agreement which will fulfill the vision of President Bush: two states for two peoples.

A peace-seeking, viable, strong, democratic and terror-free Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

A Jewish, democratic State of Israel, living in security and free from the threat of terror – the national home of the Jewish people.

President Obama’s Jerusalem speech is the closest he has come to publicly acknowledging that the following  commitments laid out in President Bush’s letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 constitute “credible proposals” to end the Jewish-Arab conflict:

  1. As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.
  2. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.
  3. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
  4. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.
  5. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

Yet President Obama has appeared to have given up one fundamental requirement of President Bush’ s Road Map – that any Palestinian Arab state that emerges as part of the two-state solution must be “democratic”

 

In a carefully worded and crafted speech that spoke in glowing terms of Israel’s vibrant democracy – President Obama was noticeably silent in failing to endorse the same outcome as being necessary for the successful implementation and conclusion of President Bush’s two-state solution.

 

To this extent President Obama seems to have rejected as unnecessary the express Annapolis commitment made by Prime Minister Olmert to achieve one of President Bush’s most cherished objectives.

 

The PLO will no doubt see this concession by President Obama as a plus – since it appears to be the inevitable consequence of Hamas and the PLO being unable to end their six years long internecine struggle that has denied the Palestinian Arabs having any say in determining their own future.

 

America is apparently set on pressuring Israel to give us this demand as a condition of resolving the two-state solution.

 

Yet in another respect President Obama’s following statement has come down firmly in favour of the commitment made by President Bush in his letter to Prime Minister Sharon  – endorsed in specific terms by Prime Minister Olmert at Annapolis – that the Arab world – and Jew-haters around the world – recognize that the Jewish people are entitled to a Jewish state in their ancient, historic and biblically recognized homeland.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice, pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts. of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland.

That is why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and  profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own. And over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.

 

President Obama reinforced that message with an unequivocal one liner:

Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state.

 

The steadfast refusal by the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab world at large  to acknowledge this simple proposition has been the major impediment to peace ever since its possibility was first suggested in 1920 at the San Remo Conference and confirmed in the 1922 Mandate for Palestine – then actually proposed in 1937 by the Peel Commission and endorsed by the United Nations in 1947.

 

Are the Palestinian Arabs now seriously ready to take up President Obama’s challenge to resolve their conflict with the Jews in accordance with the credible proposals made by Israel at Annapolis in 2007 – tempered with just one important concession by President Obama dispensing with the need for any agreement on the question of democracy?

 

That is the message President Obama has sent to President Mahmoud Abbas and  Prime Minister Fayyad – persons whom President Obama personally identified as true partners for Israel in achieving the two-state solution during his Jerusalem speech.

 

I hope we will not have to wait too long for their answer.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network

Comments

13 Responses to “Palestine – Obama utters the magic word “Annapolis””
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    Both Paul and Gil are right.
    “Palestine” does not function merely on its own “merits” nor is it a case to be treated simply between Israel-USA-Palestinian authorities. It belongs to the greater Islamist cause. Pleastine has long been the war cry that has consolidated the revival of the Caliphate semilune onslaught ( see crusades ) upon the Arab world and beyond. Any peaceful conclusion of the Israel-Arab conflict would deprive this cause of one of its most important programmatic/ideologic/propaganda elements.
    Any world leader involved with the process must address first the master pupeteers of the ME palestinian cabotinage ( I am now in France and that term is quite ok !!). What is most absurd is the financial support USA is still providing the same agents for a perennial conflict, precisely the same Palestinians.
    Considering the complexities of the US-Islamic world challenges, any paper written suggestion of resolutions of the actual Israel-palestinian authorities conflict is deemed redundant before the ink is dry.
    Yet, the only legalistic arguments one is likely to confront in a tangible manner is the international law-fare a newly palestinian “baptised” citizen shall abuse and benefit from with aplomb, based precisely on the arguments I offered above.

  2. Gil Solomon says:

    David,

    Who is fulminating and jumping up and down?
    I spell things out as they are.

    Yet you misinterpret what I had clearly said in one of my previous posts and in you own words admit that twenty years of negotiations have gone nowhere.

    On top of all that you seem to have enormous faith that Obama will do something constructive.
    He will, in your own words issue the so called Palestinian Arabs with a “red card if they don’t play by the rules”!

    As I have said repeatedly, these people have never been brought to account nor have they suffered any consequences for breaching agreements and you talk about them being “red carded”.

  3. Gil Solomon says:

    David,

    You totally misinterpreted what I was referring to by not reading the line directly below. It should have been crystal clear to anyone who read my post carefully, that the threat of “legal consequences” for the likes of Mahmoud Abbas & Co. don’t mean squat. These are the people I was referring to and I stand by that comment.

    In your own words legal consequences are “the guiding principles by which democratic countries maintain law and order.” The operative word here is democratic. Unfortunately, the PA is not running a country and as far as I am concerned is a terrorist organisation which, like all terrorist organisations is not democratic, not remotely interested in reading law books and certainly not in fear of legal consequences. Why should they be? They have never been made to bear any responsibility for their disregard of past commitments.

    I repeat, for the second time:
    “legal consequences (to the Palestinian Arabs) mean squat.
    These people only understand and respect the power that comes out of the barrel of a gun.”

    I hope this post will end any further confusion.

    • David says:

      Gil

      If the Palestinian Arabs are not prepared to play by the rules – then they will be red carded. The referee (President Obama) sent a clear message to Abbas from Jerusalem that the PLO will be sent packing if Abbas doesn’t change his intransigent stance by returning to the negotiating table to discuss the credible proposals contained in President Bush’s letter to Ariel Sharon dated 14 April 2004.

      This may all seem deadly boring and a complete waste of time and effort – but whilst it remains the view of the American President – jumping up and down will get you nowhere.

      Twenty years of negotiations have gone nowhere. Another few months trying to re-start them on the clear basis outlined at Annapolis six years ago is what this American President appears to want – and it is apparently going to happen despite your fulmination.

  4. Gil Solomon says:

    David, I’m sorry but you haven’t addressed one item I put in my original post which I suggest you re-read.

    You still go back to reciting agreements and who said or wrote what to whom and when. You say the Arabs should “heed President Obama’s reference to Annapolis and the credible proposals made by Ehud Olmert at Annapolis or suffer the consequences” etc. I’m sure this legal jargon should make these people tremble in their boots.

    They have violated every agreement they ever signed.
    The Camp David Accords mean nothing to them.
    The Oslo Accords mean nothing to them.
    The letter from George Bush dated 2004 means nothing to them.
    The Annapolis proposals of 2007 means nothing to them.

    Olmert offered them everything at Annapolis and still they didn’t accept.

    Later Arabs wanted a settlement freeze. Not just a freeze on expansion of settlement boundaries but building within a settlement, like an additional room in a house to accommodate the birth of a new child. Netanyahu obliged them for one year and still Abbas did not return to the negotiating table.

    This same Abbas still condones the teaching of Arab children that Jews are the offspring of pigs and apes and yet Israel still considers sitting down with this Jew hater with no preconditions!

    Israel held nearly all the cards once, a long long time ago, but now they have let themselves be reduced to this, virtually being dictated to by these people!
    This is what happens when you make concession after concession to terrorists and there are no consequences every time one of the agreements instrumental in the granting of the concession are violated.

    As I said in my earlier piece, the Arab world never want this issue to be resolved. Their intention is to bleed Israel to death by concession after concession. They want the lot. Resolution of this issue may draw attention to the misery that goes on in their world at large and they never want this to happen, hence they will put up proposal after proposal knowing if Israel ever accepted them it would be committing suicide.

    Legal consequences mean squat.
    These people only understand and respect the power that comes out of the barrel of a gun.

    It’s time for world Jewry to wake up out of our coma.

    The disunity of Jews in biblical times had a lot to do with the fall of the Second Temple.
    Considering the political disunity (in some cases outright treason expressed) going on inside Israel today and the chaos of opinions in the diaspora, we should pay attention.

    • David says:

      Gil

      You make an excellent case as to why Israel should declare the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap no longer binding or of any force because of the repeated violations of their provisions by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority

      The Arabs have certainly done enough to have hung themselves ten times over – yet Israel has not yet made that unilateral declaration to terminate Oslo and the Roadmap for reasons best known to its Government.

      My own opinion is that it is due to American pressure and the desire to not see the proposals of an American President consigned to the dustbin of history if there is the slightest hope that proposal might possibly succeed.

      However the continuing intransigence of Abbas and the Arab League is clearly straining even Obama’s patience as his speech has so clearly signalled.

      Legal consequences don’t mean squat. They are the guiding principles by which democratic countries maintain law and order.

      Abandon them at your peril.

  5. Sam says:

    Dear David,
    As usual you present a clear concise explanation. Thanks for that, it is educational.
    My question is what importance can be placed on the fact that Obama did not include the welcoming of jewish refugees from Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran etc whilst identifying the jews of Europe, North Africa and Ethiopia?
    Has Israel still not got this message across that 800,000 came from these countries?
    Regards,
    Sam

    • David says:

      Sam

      Yours is a very perceptive comment on one notable omission in Obama’s speech.

      The mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries to Israel and their successful rehabilitation and
      Redemption remains one of the world’s best kept secrets.

      Perhaps Obama may be too embarrassed to mention the Jewish approach to extending its hand to Displaced Jews as contrasted to the disgraceful way the Arabs have treated Palestinian Arabs displaced as a result of the Jewish-Arab conflict.

  6. David says:

    Paul

    It does seem strange that two American Presidents have given up on any Palestinian Arab state being democratic. Shows how much faith they have that this would ever occur.

    Yet both Presidents have not given up their demand that the recognition of any Palestinian Arab state will require that state to acknowledge Israel as the Jewish State.

    Of course this has always been a major circuit breaker for any such state to emerge.

    Abbas, Fayyad and the whole of the Arab League need to undergo a radical change of thinking if they ever hope to meaningfully advance any resumed negotiations during the next four years.

  7. Gil Solomon says:

    David, your posts tend to be legalistic, quoting chapter and verse of various proposals, like who said what and when etc. but they ignore the reality of who is on the opposite side of the table.

    Obama’s reference to the Annapolis proposals of 6 years ago means nothing. These proposals were ignored by the Arab world then, as they will be now. When is world Jewry going to wake up to the fact that the so called Palestinians will continue putting up proposals they know Israel cannot adopt unless it wants to commit suicide?

    This way they keep this festering boil on the world stage and in a permanent state of crisis, thinking that with relentless propaganda, world opinion will swing their way. Their intention is to bleed Israel slowly to death with one concession after the other. They are not remotely interested in a two state solution which for some reason you think is still a viable option. They want the lot and a Middle East where a Jewish presence would only be a bad dream.

    I refer you to a recent letter I wrote in this site (refer Readers’ Letters) titled: “It’s time this charade called a peace process came to an end,” wherein I advocated Israel taking unilateral action on borders and other issues so as to wash its hands of this mess. World opinion will be against it but so what? World opinion is against everything Israel does.

    The terrorists who run the West Bank and Gaza simply don’t want peace. Peace will entail responsibility and governing. They would rather continue the status quo and their lifestyles together with the high profile and prestige the world in general indulges them. These people will not even commit to ceasing immediately the propaganda of teaching their children from kindergarten age that Jews are the offspring of pigs and apes and yet for some reason you regard the word “Annapolis” as magic!

    • David says:

      Gil

      Sorry if I sound over legalistic – but there is an internationally recognised process underway that is designed to resolve the Jewish- Arab conflict.

      When Obama harks back to Annapolis it is a very significant development in the ongoing framework that comprises the process – namely UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Oslo Accords, the Bush Roadmap, the letter from President Bush to Ariel Sharon dated 14 April 2004 and Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza.

      The Arabs can choose to ignore the process or seek to go outside it at their risk and engage in
      unilateralism. Such actions will eventually bring the carefully designed process crashing down on their heads.

      President Obama made that clear in his speech.

      The Arabs are at the cross roads – heed President Obama’s reference to Annapolis and the “credible proposals” made by Ehud Olmert at Annapolis or suffer the consequences that will follow their refusal to negotiate for the outcomes proposed by President Bush and now President Obama.

  8. Paul Winter says:

    David, the critical point that you raised in your earlier post was addressed by Obama, without any Jewish leader having asked Obama the question of the international community adhering to previous commitments to Israel. Perhaps there were some quiet words behind the scenes.

    The issue of a democratic Palestine would be of importance both because of earlier commitments and because that is a development that is needed for Israel’s security; as long a dictatorships surround Israel, there is a very great chance that extermists using the anti-Jewish card will take over.

    But that need not concern us. If the USA stands by the Annapolis commitments which calls for the Arab recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, there will be no peace treaty, and most probably not even any meaningful negotiations.

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