Annapolis has come and gone but what happened there guarantees that the next 12 months of negotiations to implement the Bush two-state solution will end up going nowhere - just like the fruitless negotiations conducted over the last four years.
Annapolis clearly confirmed that these on-going negotiations with Israel will be undertaken by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - whose Charter specifically rejects the two state solution proposed by the President.
President Bush cannot be unmindful of the PLO’s pivotal role as one of the negotiating parties. He himself read out at Annapolis a joint statement prepared for the meeting which stated in the very first sentence:
"The representatives of the government of the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, represented respectively by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, in his capacity as chairman of the PLO executive committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, have convened in Annapolis, Maryland, under the auspices of President George W. Bush of the United States of America, and with the support of the participants of this international conference …”
If President Bush needed any more confirmation of this fact, Mahmoud Abbas gave it to him in the first sentence of his speech:
“Allow me Mr. President to thank you in my capacity as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and on behalf of the Palestinian people, for inviting us to this international conference.”
The PLO Charter is as anti the two state solution as could possibly be articulated - stating without equivocation that :
1. Palestine with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate is an indivisible territorial unit .
2. The Arab Palestinian people reject all solutions which are substituting (sic) for the total liberation of Palestine.
3. The Partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel are entirely illegal
4. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based on them are deemed null and void.
5. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history
6. Jews do not constitute a single nation with an identity of its own.
How President Bush and Condoleezza Rice believe the PLO can negotiate in good faith for a two state solution in the face of these fundamental impediments to achieving such a result is one of the great mysteries that remains unanswered after the festivities, hand shakes and toasts have been concluded and everyone has gone home.
The time line for the successful completion of these negotiations is supposed to allow President Bush to leave office in January 2009 as the President who was able to bring peace to the Middle East - certainly an effort worth the Nobel Peace Prize, the eternal gratitude of the nations and the favourable judgement of history if he could pull it off.
But it is obvious this can never happen and that his departure from office will be ignominious and humiliating - unless the PLO first amends its Charter to excise these Articles immediately. President Bush and Ms. Rice should be insisting this be done now if these on-going negotiations are to have any prospect of success.
These amendments were promised 14 years ago but they still remain unchanged as testimony to an organisation that hates Jews, despises the notion of a two state solution and fails to recognise the binding effect of international law.
Mahmoud Abbas simply has no power or authority at the present time to negotiate for a two state solution because the PLO Charter expressly precludes him from doing so.
This is not some kind of technical hair splitting argument. It goes to the entire mindset under which negotiations are to be undertaken and the ability of the negotiating parties to achieve a solution.
Mr Abbas should be required to take steps to immediately repeal these provisions of the Covenant before any further negotiations take place. This is something he can implement - and very quickly. He may not be able to procure the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, he may not be able to stop terrorist attacks - but he can very easily convene a meeting of the National Council of the PLO to repeal these odious provisions of the Charter.
The capacity of the PLO to deliver peace - even if the above offending and offensive articles were removed today - is also highly questionable.
Respected veteran analyst Danny Rubinstein pointed this out very clearly in an article written by him in Ha’aretz on November 16 when he stated:
“The institutions of the PLO which presumed to represent the entire Palestinian nation have in recent years become obsolete and unimportant. They do not include any representation for a national religious movement like Hamas (which holds that religion takes precedence nationality (sic), although its supporters make up about one third of the Palestinian public...for quite some time now, the PLO has ceased to be a relevant body in Palestinian politics.”
President Bush and Ms Rice must wear rose coloured glasses or have very blinkered vision if they fail to recognise or acknowledge these basic failings in the ability and strength of the PLO to deliver any successful outcome for the President’s two state vision over the next twelve months.
It is incongruous that President Bush and Ms. Rice continue to dine and dialogue with this elderly bespectacled white- haired PLO Chairman in a Saville Row suit who purports to negotiate a two state solution for an organization which forbids it eventuating and which expressly states that its objective is to drive the Jews into the sea and out of a Palestine that belongs only to the Palestinian Arab people.
Allowing negotiations to continue on such a brittle base is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
The President’s two state vision has never got off the ground since 2003 precisely because Abbas has never been required to have the PLO Charter amended to allow meaningful negotiations to be undertaken. It appears that President Bush and Ms Rice have learned nothing from that unmitigated disaster.
President Bush and Ms Rice will only have themselves to blame at the end of the day when these current negotiations also inevitably collapse.