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:
- 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.
- The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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