Priorities After Annapolis

  • 29 November 2007

The Annapolis Conference, held last Tuesday, was an important step toward reviving the stalled peace process in the Middle East. The response to the conference was mixed. Some believed the conference was unfruitful, and merely an addition to the long line of similar unsuccessful attempts in the past. However, the other response was that the conference offered an important opportunity for finding a solution to the Middle East crises.

However, before passing a judgment on the success or failure of the conference it would be to study the steps taken in the wake of the conference. This one-day conference was responsible for launching the peace process, although no specific proposals related to solving the issues was agreed upon, and the Palestinian and the Israeli parties failed to even come out with a joint declaration.

If one were to admit that the Annapolis Conference had restored the peace process, the most important thing after the conference for Arab parties would be to give priority to initiating moves for reaching a political settlement leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Holy Jerusalem as its capital. The provisions should also include the return of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, the right of return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with relevant international resolutions, chiefly General Assembly Resolution 194, and the eventual liberation of the Syrian Golan Heights and Lebanese Shebaa Farms.

Arab countries unanimously agreed to participate at the Annapolis Conference. They should now use this consensus by giving top priority to the peace process initiated at the conference, in order to establish a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Undoubtedly, the most important priority for them would be to facilitate a rapprochement among Palestinian parties because no settlement could be reached in the wake of the present division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Priority should also be given to the combined settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli issue with the political settlement of Lebanese and Syrian issues with Israel. Moreover, no stable political settlement could be realized without reaching a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict through an accepted timetable and definitive framework for negotiations that would keep Israeli attempts from avoiding a final settlement. Another important priority would be to develop a collective and united Arab position on dealing with Israel in the next phase because at the outset of the Annapolis Conference, Tel Aviv has made all-out efforts to create differences over the Arab normalization issue.