The international Middle East peace conference Washington has called for November at Annapolis, Maryland, will stand President George W. Bush as an enduring monument to his efforts as Middle East peacemaker. This assurance from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convinced the president to initiate the conference for bringing a solution to the long-lingering Israel-Palestinian conflict, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington sources report.
She convinced him that this legacy would persist after he departed the White House and outlive the flak he has taken over the Iraq War.
To achieve this goal, Rice has designed a multilateral, multi-stage peace conference that will go on for two years until 2010. The details of her scenario are divulged here for the first time by DEBKA-Net-Weekly.
1. The event will be inaugurated in November at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, as the starting point for intensive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
2. This session will wind up with a list of detailed core principles for discussion, such as future borders between Israel and the Palestinian state, refugees, Jerusalem, Israeli security and the war on terror. Each principle will have an attached rundown of the items to be discussed and their implementation.
3. Participants will determine the year 2010 as the timeline for negotiations to end.
4. The conference will establish an inter-Arab monitoring team of three to watch over the talks and keep them to the timetable laid down at the opening conference. Its three members will be selected from among the 12 nations chosen by the Arab League to monitor the Middle East peace process. Special Envoy British ex-prime minister Tony Blair will be attached to the team.
5. To prevent either the Israeli or the Palestinian side from ducking the resolutions laid down for them at Annapolis, the conference will be expanded to include at least 30 nations, the G-8, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and 12 Arab League nations.
At some future point, three Muslim nations, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan, will be invited to join. Negotiations are afoot to co-opt India, Brazil and South Africa.
By the time the conference begins, most of these governments are expected to RSVP.
The Order of Events
1. The conference will not end after the opening session. It will be reconvened automatically at six-month intervals.
2. This will guarantee that George W. Bush’s successor in the White House after the November 2008 election pursues his vision up to fulfillment of an Israel-Palestinian peace treaty and an independent Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace and security.
3. The Bush administration and its successor will promise to promote massive media coverage of the six-monthly meetings of the Annapolis conference. This will lend the event great international prestige and provide a frame that will prevent the Israel and the Palestinians from shirking or procrastinating on their commitments.
4. Final-status accords between Israel and the Palestinians, to be signed between 2010 and 2011, will be put to Palestinian referendum and to the Israeli cabinet and parliament for ratification.
Olmert cornered into no-win options
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that as soon as President Bush adopted Rice’s proposal and announced he might be there to open the event in person, the conference began to assume a life of its own.
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, changed his mind about not attending. He and his Fatah party decided that the initiative worth now with embracing as the most significant Palestinian objective since the 1993 Oslo Framework Accords.
Abbas then went on the air to publish a radicalized version of Palestinian demands.
(See HOT POINTS below).
Egypt and Saudi Arabia have begun to reconsider their previous negative approach and may yet put in an appearance at the conference and endorse its follow-up diplomatic process.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington and Middle East sources report that this change of heart by the Palestinians, Riyadh and Cairo, came about as a result of a pledge by the US Secretary of State to Abbas that the US government would not automatically stand by Israel at the conference.
No US government has ever before conveyed such an assurance to the Palestinians.
Our sources in Jerusalem add that the impetus gained from this assurance has pushed prime minister Ehud Olmert into a corner, stripped of the high cards he believed he held in negotiations with the Palestinians.
Officials in Jerusalem see the Israeli team standing alone in Annapolis, denied support from Washington and facing a hostile majority and an agenda, whose acceptance would spell the fall of his coalition government.