Virtual Agreement, Virtual Negotiations
December 11, 2007
Getting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sit down together at Annapolis was an impressive show of support and hope, but negotiations need more than hope to succeed. What Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to in Annapolis was to begin negotiating a virtual agreement that aims to declare an apparent diplomatic victory down the road without resolving the difficult issues that divide the two sides. The rationale is that once an agreement is signed, it will shore up support for embattled leaders, and eventually empower them to implement the deal at some point in the future. The launch of these virtual negotiations does little to resolve the competing visions of every party involved, and those differing visions will likely stall any progress.
The first signal that things were not going as planned at Annapolis was the fallback on the 2003 “road map” document. Both Israelis and Palestinians agreed once again to fulfill their many obligations under the road map. The first phase is particularly complex, with more than two-dozen provisions. For Palestinians, it primarily deals with security reform, an end to violence, and institution building. For Israelis, the first phase calls for the dismantling of settlement outposts erected prior to March 2001, a freeze on all settlement activity, and an eventual withdrawal to their September 2000 military positions. Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have very different concepts of what this all means.