Jerusalem Ė Al-Ayyam Ė the action plan that was reached between the PLO with the Israeli government and which was announced in Annapolis is different a lot in terms of content and form from the "joint document" that the Palestinian and Israeli sides sought to reach before heading to Washington and then to Annapolis. This action plan was reached at the margins of the trilateral meeting between Bush, Abbas and Olmert.
The action plan that was announced is almost the same that was presented by US Secretary of State Rice to both sides during her last visit to the region and it was known then as the five-point plan and was accepted by the Palestinians but the Israelis rejected it. Despite this, the action plan that was announced in Annapolis lacks in particular an extremely important word that was mentioned in the previous US proposal which is "immediate and parallel implementation of the first phase of the roadmap"; the action plan that was read in Annapolis didnít include the term "parallel" and this is expected to cause major problems in implementation in the future.
Until holding the trilateral summit which came a few minutes before the official opening of Annapolis Conference, both the Palestinian and Israeli sides have not yet ratified the action plan and only before President Bush accompanied both leaders to the conference hall, the action plan was concluded with clear efforts from US Secretary of State Rice who was supported by her assistant David Welch.
When the action plan was presented to US President Bush to be ratified by President Abbas and PM Olmert, President Bush asked both leaders if it is possible for him to declare it personally at the start of his speech before the conference and the two leaders who were standing next to him responded positively.
According to Palestinian informed sources, major difficulties were witnessed in the meetings in Washington which prevented overcoming the obstacles that stood in the path of reaching a joint document that can be a basis for the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Annapolis because the purpose of this document was to facilitate the process.
After the American officials downplayed the importance of reaching a joint document before the arrival of the two delegations to Washington, the United States went back to stress on the importance of reaching such a document because it will affirm to the world that both sides have become ready to reach an agreement.
A few hours before the departure of President Abbas from the Palestinian lands, Rice contacted him by phone and offered that the United States would exert efforts with both sides to conclude a joint document, proposing to President Abbas to send Head of the Palestinian negotiating delegation Ahmad Qurei' to Washington on November 24 and to have Israeli FM Livni arrive on the same date, and President Abbas agreed to the proposal but Livni refused.
Despite this, later Rice was able to convince Livni on conducting a final attempt to reach a deal and in fact Rice met with Livni in private at the State Department and then held a trilateral meeting in which Qurei' and Livni attended and then both Qurei' and Livni moved to the residential headquarters of Livni in one of the hotels in Washington accompanied by members of both delegations and after a long meeting in which the Palestinians presented proposals, the Palestinian delegation left the meeting with the hope to reach an agreement on the next day.
According to the Palestinian sources, the proposal on the table stipulated that the statement include a declaration on the start of the negotiations along with specifying a date for official launching of the negotiations and to define the issues of the final status negotiations and a working schedule with a specific date to conclude the negotiations and to form a trilateral committee to implement the roadmap immediately.
The Israeli side wanted some time to study the proposal and at that moment, Palestinian optimistic statements were issued saying that the sides are close to an agreement but the Israeli side retreated on the next day which pushed Qurei' not to head to a negotiations meeting.
The Palestinian side posed that the statement would stipulate that the aim of the negotiations is to end the occupation that started in 1967 and to establish a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel and this was totally rejected by the Israelis who insisted that the document must include a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state.
It is well known that the joint document that both sides were working on in the region includes the terms of reference of the negotiations process and a specific time ceiling to conclude the negotiations and to define the issues of the final status and to form the negotiations committees and to form a trilateral committee to implement the roadmap immediately.
As it was not possible to reach an agreement, US Assistant to Secretary of State David Welch intensified his contacts with the Palestinian and Israeli sides at a time when Rice was busy with the Quartet Committee meeting and bilateral meetings with her international counterparts.
The Palestinian sources pointed out that the Israeli delegation usually agrees in principle to a matter and then asks for time to study the proposal and the next day would come rejecting it and posing new proposals which made the Palestinian side lose confidence in the Israeli side.
Before the two delegations headed to Annapolis on Tuesday, the Israeli side insisted on recognizing the Jewish state and rejected a trilateral committee and announced officially in their mass media that "the agreement is ready and the Palestinian side has to either accept or refuse it and no amendments will be introduced".
At that phase, there was a growing impression that no joint statement will be issued and that both sides will read their own speeches and outline their demands and attempt to convince the United States that the speech of President Bush should include the demands of each side.
When President Bush met with Abbas and Olmert, he asked what happened with the action plan and Rice said that both sides are about to reach one and she left the room accompanied by the two negotiations delegations and pressure was exerted to reach the joint action plan and this is what happened and Rice informed President Bush before the end of the meeting that the action plan was ready.
Returning to the American five-point proposal presented by Rice and accepted by the Palestinians and rejected by the Israelis who at first informed the United States that they accept it. The original document included four points:
1- Both sides shall committee to start immediate and parallel implementation of the first phase of the roadmap.
2- Both sides agree to form a trilateral American-Palestinian-Israeli Committee to follow up the immediate implementation of the roadmap.
3- Both sides shall commit to continue implementing their commitments as mentioned in the roadmap until reaching a peace agreement.
4- The US Administration shall monitor and judge both sides in their implementing their commitments in the roadmap.
Israel set a condition that it will accept the document if a fifth point is added which is "implementing the peace agreement in the future, unless agreed otherwise by the parties, shall be subject to the implementation of the roadmap as judged by the United States.
Then Israel retreated from its approval on the US document and demanded the deletion of parallel implementation and demanded the addition of the Jewish state which pushed the United States to withdraw its paper.
Palestinian informed sources say that what has been achieved was the best of what was available and with least damage but it was not possible to accept at all a situation where they pass positions that can harm the Palestinian side in the future negotiations, such as accepting the Jewish state and Palestinians insisted on rejecting this.
Upon reading the action plan, it included Palestinian and Israeli concessions. On the Palestinian side, the date of the end of 2008 to conclude the negotiations is not binding as both sides promise to exert efforts to reach an agreement until that date and the action plan does not include any terms of reference of the peace process and no specification of the final status issues.
On the Israeli side, the plan didnít include the Jewish state and it included the formation of a trilateral Palestinian-Israeli-American Committee to implement the roadmap and the Americans will be the monitors and judges on implementation and this was rejected by Israel as Israel wanted to be itself the monitor and judge and no one else.
Published at Al Ayyam Newspaper - November 29,2007