November 27, 2007

Annapolis: Return To The Road Map

The first fruit of the Annapolis Conference has arrived, and it's a road map. The White House just announced its commitment to hold both sides accountable to the road-map agreement, and the acquiescence of the Israelis and the Palestinians to meet its obligations on the way to a peace treaty by the end of 2008:

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 by 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 bi-weekly 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 Israel-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.

It was important to kick off the conference with some sort of agreement, and this -- like most of what will occur this week -- had to have been pre-arranged. It commits both parties to little more than their previous commitments. This time, of course, they really mean it.

It's interesting, though, that the US has taken the position of arbiter on the road map and its obligations. In 2003, the Quartet fulfilled that role, with the EU, UN, and Russia. The Bush administration has taken more of a political gamble here than predicted, but Bush probably figures he has little to lose. The road map was a dead letter before Annapolis, and even a short-term resuscitation looks better than the status quo.


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