Following the conclusion of the Annapolis Summit, some in the Arab media have rushed to question whether the conference had been successful or not. The truth is, what we have witnessed is the beginning of negotiations, not their end especially since the conference was a one day affair.
The importance of the Annapolis Summit is that it guarantees a joint Palestinian-Israeli document in which both parties have agreed to begin talks about fundamental issues, without any exceptions, towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Another aspect of importance is that it is supported by 40 states and demonstrates US President George W. Bush’s conviction to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke of the certainty of the Palestinian people’s desire to create a Palestinian state and affirmed, “This opportunity might not be repeated. And if it were to be repeated, it might not enjoy the same unanimity and impetus.”
“We need the fate of the city of Jerusalem to be a critical component in any peace accord that we might reach,” he said and added that, “We need East Jerusalem to be our capital, and to establish open relations with West Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert spoke of his state’s readiness to take measures for peace, “We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations [for peace].”
This is an important point, especially since the Israeli PM followed this by saying that, “The negotiations between us will not take place here in Annapolis but rather in our home and in your home.” This indicates an implicit recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
Those are some of the statements we heard in Annapolis, what remains are the negotiations which will last a year. However, a more crucial aspect is that the preparation for a year of negotiations will not be an easy feat for the Palestinians, particularly since the campaign of skepticism started before the Annapolis Summit date and details were even announced.
The propaganda against the conference came in the form of raising the ceiling of expectations or by undermining the possible outcome of the summit, whereas what is required today is supporting the Palestinian position.
If our dream is to witness the creation of an independent Palestinian state then we must take into consideration the main obstacles from our side inasmuch as looking into the hindrances from the Israeli side.
From our side, we have the predicament of the divisions between the Palestinians themselves. Preceding the establishment of the Palestinian state, there is the Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and the isolated Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Furthermore, there was the announcement made by Iran yesterday inviting the Palestinian factions opposed to the Annapolis Summit to a conference in Tehran, which means further divisions among the Palestinian ranks.
As has been stated before, the danger of the negotiation marathon that will take place over the coming year apart from Israeli stalling is represented through Palestinian divisions and what aggravates them.
Mr. Ismail Haniyeh has declared that the participation in the Annapolis conference is, “a grave retreat from the rejective [stance]”. But the question is: What of those who backed down from their pledge in Holy Mecca?
We are presently confronted with a historic opportunity, it’s true, but we must still double our efforts towards the creation of a Palestine state. The most critical of these will be conciliatory efforts between Palestinians and preventing those who exploit the Palestinian issue and cause.