- For the revolutionary legislature of the Colony of Maryland, see Annapolis Convention (1774-1776).
- For the meeting that resulted in the United States Constitutional Convention, see Annapolis Convention (1786)
The Annapolis Conference was a Middle East peace conference held on November 27, 2007, at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, United States. The conference marked the first time a two-state solution was articulated as the mutually agreed-upon outline for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conference ended with the issuing of a joint statement from all parties.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice organized and hosted the conference. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and U.S. President George W. Bush attended the meeting. A partial list of over 40 invitees was released on November 20, 2007, including China, the Arab League, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations; most of whom accepted the invitation.
Objectives and background
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The objectives of the conference were in an attempt to produce a substantive document on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along the lines of President George W. Bush's Roadmap For Peace, with the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state. A draft document was leaked by Haaretz on November 17, 2007, with the final and forthcoming Annapolis Joint Declaration expected to outline the scope of what will eventually be final peace talks.
President Abbas and P.M. Olmert had been meeting repeatedly since June 2007 to try to agree on some basic issues ahead of the summit.
A final round of discussions between Olmert and Abbas was held in Washington D.C. on November 26, 2007, the day prior to the conference.
Secretary Rice visited the Middle East on a four-day tour of shuttle diplomacy in mid-October to shore up support for the summit, and hinted at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities (GA), in Nashville, Tennessee on November 13, 2007, that Israelis are prepared to give up the West Bank in exchange for peace. This was Rice's 8th visit to the region during the Bush Administration.
Abbas stated that a clear agenda was necessary for the conference, and affirmed in early October that only a Palestinian state comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip in their entirety would be acceptable, with any permanent Israeli control of land beyond its 1967 borders subject to discussion on a one-to-one basis. He further demanded that all six central issues be debated at the conference: Jerusalem, refugees and right of return, borders, settlements, water and security.
Abbas said that he hoped to reach an agreement with Israel by the end of November 2007, which Abbas would then put to a referendum. Furthermore, he expressed his hope that a final agreement with Israel would be possible within six months of the conference.
In October 2007, Prime Minister Olmert indicated that he would be willing to give parts of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a broader peace settlement at Annapolis, drawing considerable criticism from right-wing Israeli and foreign Jewish organizations and Christian Zionists.
On November 27, 2007, Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, announced that his party would leave the government coalition, thereby ending the coalition's majority in the Knesset, if Ehud Olmert agreed to divide Jerusalem. Shas minister Eli Yishai explained: "Jerusalem is above all political considerations. I will not help enable concessions on Jerusalem." Olmert's ability to follow through on his earlier comments about concessions in East Jerusalem is therefore in question.
Prior to the conference, President Bush met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the White House. After meeting with Olmert and Abbas, President Bush read from a joint statement, signed by both parties, supporting a Two-State Solution. "We agreed to immediately launch good faith, bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including core issues, without exception," and that, "The final peace settlement will establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people just as Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people."
The Annapolis Conference differed from previous Middle East peace conferences in several respects:
- This was the first time both sides (Israeli and Palestinian) entered a conference with a common understanding that the final state of Palestinian-Israeli peace will be a two-state solution.
- This was the first time in several decades that the context of the conference did not include adversarial positions from either the United Nations or the European Union against the Israelis. Going into the conference, the U.N. and E.U. were both largely behind the U.S. effort.
- Similarly, the importance of the Quartet on the Middle East has been diminished since it was first formed. At the Annapolis Conference, the U.S. played the major mediator role, with the other three members of the original Quartet assuming lower status positions.
Protests and boycotts
Hamas and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran called for a boycott of the conference, and on November 23 Hamas held a demonstration in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, large demonstrations opposed to the conference were quelled heavy handedly, and demonstrators were beaten by Fatah militants. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denounced the event, stating that it was "A political show for the media which is in Israel's interest".
On the other hand, Jewish activists and organizations opposed to Israel's concession in a peace settlement of any part of Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria became increasingly vocal against the Olmert government, with protests in front of Israeli embassies in New York and Washington D.C. during the summit. On November 27, 2007, Rabbi Dov Lior of the Yesha Rabbis Council called an "emergency meeting" in order to discuss the upcoming conference. During the meeting, Lior stated: "No leader, in any generation, has the right to give away Eretz Israel… we call on the Jews abroad, and especially on community leaders and rabbis, to join us in our efforts against this treaty and its implications... Together, we will save the people of Israel from the government's terrible plan." Lior further stated that peace would only be achieved by "[cleansing] the country of Arabs and [resettling] them in the countries where they came from." A number of large mainstream American Jewish and Christian groups joined together with a majority of Knesset to oppose any negotiation that would include altering Jerusalem's status. They formed the Coordinating Council on Jerusalem.
Organizations that approved of the conference also mobilized and prepared to demonstrate their support for the summit. The United Nations prepared a resolution to be adopted by the Security Council on November 30, 2007, expressing support for the outcome of the conference. The resolution was withdrawn after Israel raised complaints.
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