In its latest issue, dated November 8, The New York Review of Books published in a prominent - if not screaming - manner a letter signed by eight famous individuals and addressed to United States President George W. Bush, warning him of the grave dangers inherent in a possible failure of the Annapolis conference.
To avert this danger, the signatories suggest adopting a number of recommendations that will distance both the conference and Washington's policy from the widespread view that prevails today, albeit with slight variations, in the Bush administration and the government of Israel . The signatories include Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security advisor in the administration of former president Jimmy Carter; Lee Hamilton, the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor of former president George H. Bush; and Thomas Pickering, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel.
The authors see the Annapolis conference as "a genuine opportunity for progress toward a two-state solution." They believe that the Middle East is in the throws of an extremely grave crisis and that a conference with a positive outcome will play a crucial role in stemming instability and violence. They also hold that the conference must deal with "the substance of a permanent peace" and that it should adopt the outlines of a permanent status agreement, especially in light of the impossibility of reaching a comprehensive agreement before the end of November. If Israelis and Palestinians do not manage to reach such an agreement, the Middle East Quartet (made up of the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN) will have to propose a formulation of its own for an agreement that will be based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Clinton parameters of 2000, the Arab peace initiative of 2002 and the 2003 road map.
The main points of a comprehensive agreement are the partition into two states on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines, with additional territorial exchanges at a ratio of one to one; Jerusalem as the capital of both states; a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in a manner concordant with the principle of two states, alongside addressing the profound sense of injustice among the refugees and their compensation and rehabilitation.
The signatories congratulate the Bush administration for inviting Syria to the conference but believe that the U.S. government itself should also enter into negotiations with Damascus, based on the belief that a breakthrough in this channel could change the regional situation. As for Hamas, it is preferable to hold a dialogue with it than to attempt to isolate it.
The recommendations that appear in "the letter of the eight" and the basic assumptions on which it rests are not surprising. Its initiators have been disagreeing with the Bush administration's Middle East policy for years now. The letter is presented as a joint initiative of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc. headed by General Brent Scowcroft and Henry Siegman and the International Crisis Group headed by Gareth Evans, along with the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program. ...
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