Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Failure Risks Devastating Consequences

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Failure Risks Devastating Consequences

Article excerpt

A Letter to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

The following letter on the Middle East peace conference scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland in late November was sent by its signers on Oct. 10 to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The statement is a joint initiative of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc. (Gen. Brent Scowcroft, chairman, International Board, and Henry Siegman, president), the International Crisis Group (Gareth Evans, president), and the New America Foundation /American Strategy Program (Steven Clemons, director).

The Israeli-Palestinian peace conference announced by President Bush and scheduled for November presents a genuine opportunity for progress toward a two-state solution. The Middle East remains mired in its worst crisis in years, and a positive outcome of the conference could play a critical role in stemming the rising tide of instability and violence. Because failure risks devastating consequences in the region and beyond, it is critically important that the conference succeed.

Bearing in mind the lessons of the last attempt at Camp David seven years ago at dealing with the fundamental political issues that divide the two sides, we believe that in order to be successful, the outcome of the conference must be substantive, inclusive, and relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians.

The international conference should deal with the substance of a permanent peace:

Because a comprehensive peace accord is unattainable by November, the conference should focus on the endgame and endorse the contours of a permanent peace, which in turn should be enshrined in a Security Council resolution. Israeli and Palestinian leaders should strive to reach such an agreement. If they cannot, the Quartet (U.S., EU, Russia, and U.N. Secretary General)-under whose aegis the conference ought to be held-should put forward its own outline, based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Clinton parameters of 2000, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and the 2003 road map. It should reflect the following:

* Two states, based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon modifications as expressed in a 1:1 land swap;

* Jerusalem as home to two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty;

* Special arrangements for the Old City, providing each side control of its respective holy places and unimpeded access by each community to them;

* A solution to the refugee problem that is consistent with the two-state solution, addresses the Palestinian refugees' deep sense of injustice, as well as provides them with meaningful financial compensation and resettlement assistance;

* Security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty.

The conference should not be a one-time affair. It should set in motion credible and sustained permanent status negotiations under international supervision and with a timetable for their completion, so that both a two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative's full potential (normal, peaceful relations between Israel and all Arab states) can be realized.

The international conference should be inclusive:

* In order to enhance Israel's confidence in the process, Arab states that currently do not enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel should attend the conference.

* We commend the administration for its decision to invite Syria to the conference; it should be followed by genuine engagement. …

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