April Fools Day was an appropriate day for Israel’s newly elected Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to tell the world what every Government feared would happen when Benjamin Netanyahu formed Israel‘s new Government:
"There is one document that obligates us - and that’s not the Annapolis conference - it has no validity"
Showing a little more backbone than the spineless diplomats who had spent thousands of fruitless hours and involved their countries in pledging billions of dollars in progressing Annapolis , Mr Lieberman delivered a polite message to those who consider themselves the leading democracies in the world:
"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis - nor did the Knesset,” Lieberman said.
“The one document that obligates Israel” - and he stressed that Israel is bound by its ratified commitment - “is the 2003 road map, officially called ‘A performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict"
The shock and horror at Mr Lieberman’s pronouncements displayed by such world leaders as Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy was ill considered and very hasty.
Had they taken some real time out from saving the world’s headlong plunge into depression - instead of making statements on the run - they would have been able to focus on what Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the gathering of world leaders assembled in Annapolis on 27 November 2007
"The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us,UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,the Roadmap and the 14 April 2004 letter from President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel."
Letters from Presidents to Prime Ministers are important documents and none was more important than the one President Bush wrote to Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 to procure Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza.
That letter made it clear - amongst many other commitments - that the Arabs could not expect to regain 100% of the West Bank and Gaza in the Annapolis negotiations. The Arabs however refused to play ball and insisted on 100% - not the 93% offered by Israel - plus an additional area from Israel’s sovereign territory to make up the remaining 7% that would be retained by Israel.
Instead of pressuring the Arabs to accept this proposal the Quartet - America, Russia, ,the European Union and the United Nations - sought to pressure Israel into more concessions that would have seen the West Bank ethnically cleansed of Jews who had returned to live in their biblical heartland since 1967 - after having been kicked out of there in 1948 by six invading Arab armies.
In going for Israel’s jugular the Quartet cut its own collective wrists and - with assured predictably - failed to get an agreed outcome by the Annapolis expiry date - 1 January 2009.
Crocodile tears are now the order of the day. Like the Annapolis Conference they are a total waste of time.
Remarkably the Quartet appears to have learnt nothing from the Annapolis journey to nowhere as it continues to persist with its call to make the West Bank a “No Jews “ zone - which is both racist and offensive in the extreme.
Perhaps these “world leaders” should now reflect on the only game in town - the Roadmap - and ponder why it has not got off the ground in the six years since it was first mooted and endorsed by the same intrepid Quartet - and why it will surely continue to languish and die on the vine.
Mr Lieberman failed to mention that the Roadmap had only been accepted by Israel with fourteen reservations expressed to President Bush on 25 May 2003.
The first of those reservations (quoted in part following) immediately indicates why the Roadmap will not succeed either:
"In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure, collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed, cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority, activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement. There will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror. The security plans to be implemented are the Tenet and Zinni plans."
The Roadmap is indeed performance based and the Arabs - and the Quartet - have got to get on the stage and play their parts if the Roadmap is to have any chance of being fulfilled.
There is nothing unambiguous in these demands - dismantle Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrrorist groups, end weapons smuggling and weapons production.
The Quartet needs to get serious - and soon. The Quartet’s special envoy - Tony Blair - needs to stop pussyfooting around and tell the Arabs to put up or shut up. No doubt he will retreat yet again from taking this principled stance.
Mr Lieberman may not be Foreign Minister for very long as he faces corruption charges that somehow seem to plague every prominent politician in Israel. But the course he has charted is one that can be followed with complete propriety by anyone who might succeed him.
International diplomacy is based on making and scrupulously abiding by what has been signed and agreed upon between parties to a conflict.
Israel sought nothing more than to have the parameters of the Annapolis negotiations honoured and observed. Those who now seek to pillory it for maintaining such a standard only demonstrate their inability and ignorance to comprehend and understand those parameters. Israel’s reservations to the Roadmap need to be understood if the next ten years is not to be spent in futile negotiations.
Perhaps the Quartet might now turn its attention to some critical international agreements that are binding on the Quartet and the rest of the world - the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
It is these two documents that lay the foundations for ending the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours - the division of sovereignty in the West Bank between Israel and Jordan by redrawing the boundary between these two successor states in the territory once called Palestine.
The sooner the Quartet acts on these two forgotten documents, the sooner those crocodile tears might end.