Al Jazeera correspondents put the statements of the three leaders in perspective.
|Speech over, Bush left the nitty-gritty of negotiations to Olmert and Abbas [AFP]
At the Annapolis conference, hosted by the US on Tuesday, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, spoke about their committment to beginning a process in which they would resolve all outstanding issues by the end of 2008.
Abbas said that “all issues, including … refugees, borders, settlements, water and security and others,” must be discussed, and said that any peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians should ensure that Palestinians have East Jerusalem as their capital.
Olmert pledged to enter continuous negotiations with the Palestinians in an effort to complete an agreement by the end of 2008, but also said it was time to end “alienation toward the state of Israel”, adding that Israelis were “prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks in order to realise these [peace] aspirations.”
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst: “I’ve heard from three other gentlemen – President Clinton, Chairman Arafat as well as Prime Minister Rabin – the same speeches, exactly the same way, 14 years ago with, presumably, the very same determination.
“Where the Israeli prime minister, then as now, took the higher moral ground and spoke about Israeli suffering, when Israel is an occupying force when Israel is an occupying force for the last 40 years, of the Palestinian people.
“Whereas President Abbas took the practical road, without any of the conscientious discourse that we heard by the Israelis, whereas it is the Palestinian people under occupation.
“We heard the names of three [kidnapped] Israeli soldiers held by the Palestinians and the Lebanese, but we didn’t hear a single name of the ten or eleven thousand Palestinian prisoners, by Abbas.
“We haven’t heard anything about the majority of the Palestinian parliament that are in Israeli prisons.
“So it is really more of the same process, more of the same discourse, more of the same practicality and pragmatism.
“I haven’t heard anything today that gave me the impression that anything after Annapolis would be better than anything before Annapolis, which in my mind would be a way to judge a meeting like Annapolis.”
Nour Odeh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent, in Annapolis: “The statement of President Bush gave the Israelis something the Palestinians were hoping not to hear from him.
“That Israel was the homeland of the Jewish people … which is a controversial demand that Israel is making to the Palestinians – to recognise the Jewish nature of the Israeli state – thus dropping all claims to the Palestinians right to return as outlined by various UN resolutions.
“In many ways President Bush put the carriage ahead of the horse. He asked the Palestinians to prove that they can forge peace; to prove that they can build a democratic Palestinian state and to prove that they can achieve security.
“President Abbas responded by reminding President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert and also speaking to his domestic audience … that peace starts with committment, and that the arab peace initiative means that Israel has to make the first step by ending its occupation.”
David Chater, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Jerusalem: “I think it’s the closest they could get to a joint declaration.
“In the end it was a statement read by President Bush which was merely there give the contours of final status negotations. The important thing is that some sort of negotiations were agreed. By the end of 2008, they’ll have some sort of agreement.
“There will be bi-weekly meetings, steering committees, intense negotiations. We are beginning to get some sort of detail about how the momentum will be developed.
“It’s all about Annapolis plus one. We’ve had photo opportunities, we’ve had the fine speeches, now we get down to the really hard work and those really hardcore issues.
“It was, in a way, a disappointment that the joint understanding was a feeble statement about how the negotations would go.
“Nevertheless, it was a strong speech by George Bush; a strong speech also by the Palestinian president. He said there’s been a paradigm shift, they are now at the crossroads; that it was a defining moment and that they must go forward; that they will not avoid any issue.”
“Interestingly, the Israeli prime minister said they would stand by all obligations. That means a freeze on settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, including natural growth … And demolition of the outposts, illegal even under Israeli law.”
“But also he mentioned that certain areas may not be completely withdrawn to pre-1967 borders.”