The Annapolis International Conference has raised many expectations among those of us who believe that peace is achievable among Israelis and Palestinians. After all, this will be the first time after more than seven years that official Israeli and Palestinian delegations will convene under international auspices to renew the stalled peace process.
Even though the exact objectives of the conference are unclear as these lines are being written, I believe we can safely assume that such a conference will end with some kind of a framework, or a Declaration of Principles. The ultimate aim should of course be an Arab-Israeli settlement, based on UN Security Resolution 242 (1967), the Clinton parameters, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative.
However, risks of failure are real, and the spoilers are numerous. Needless to say, failure would be a fatal blow, as it would set the clock backwards. It could plunge the area into a renewed outburst of violence, paving the way to radicalization of the Palestinian society and a takeover of the West Bank by Hamas.
Defining our goals and preparing the conference, in all its details, is necessary in order to make it a success. For the conference to be successful, the outcome must focus on the substance of a permanent peace: that is, in broad strokes, on the endgame.
There is no doubt that a comprehensive peace agreement cannot and will not be attained by the end of November. However, agreement on principles can provide the necessary basis to proceed with detailed negotiations.
In addition to a Declaration of Principles, the aims of the International Conference should be:
- To set in motion a mechanism of negotiations on each one of the core issues—borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security, etc. Additional international meetings are obviously desirable, but it is progress on these tracks that is of utmost importance.
- To accompany the peace process with tangible measures on the ground which affect the daily lives of citizens and, at the same time, can increase the credibility of the peace process. These should include a comprehensive cease fire on the West Bank, the gradual removal of roadblocks which would ensure greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians, a joint effort to prevent arms smuggling, the cracking down of militias, the dismantling of illegal outposts, the freezing of settlement activity etc.
Thus, even as negotiations are still being held, this conference could provide a positive motivation for their continuation if it yields concrete results.
Last but not least, the role of the international community:
While direct negotiations between the parties are essential, the international community has a very important role to play. For both parties to make concessions and convince their local constituencies, international support is crucial at this point. The Quartet and the Arab League should accompany them and strengthen the parties by various measures: the elaboration of an economic Marshall Plan for the Palestinians, an international mechanism that would monitor progress and implementation, and a gradual process of normalization of relations between Israel and the moderate Arab countries.
Colette Avital is a Labor Party member of the Israeli Knesset, where she is Deputy Speaker. Among her many foreign service positions, Ms. Avital has served as Israel’s ambassador to Portugal and as Israel’s Consul General to New York.
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