Are you wondering about the Annapolis meeting that will open this week? Will the meeting exceed the low expectations that now embrace it? The confab has already been downgraded from a “conference” to just a “meeting.” What I offer below is an authentic copy of the official “boiler plate” that has been circulated to U.S. diplomats. In other words, what you are reading is the language that has been crafted prior to the meeting by State department officials intent on convincing you, and me, that the Annapolis meeting is a bona fide step forward.
Were you the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, the political officer in El Salvador, the cultural affairs officer in Russia, the consular affairs officer in Poland, the economic attache in France or the State deparment spokesperson in Washington, this is the suggested language ("boilerplate") for responding to public inquiries and questions from the press about Annapolis.
1. On November 27, the United States will host Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Palestinian Authority President Abbas, along with Members of the Quartet, the Members of the Arab League Follow-on Committee, the G-8, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and other key international actors for a conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
2. The Annapolis Conference will signal broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders' courageous efforts, and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace. I urge you to find appropriate venues to talk about the meeting and highlight the themes below.
3. Suggested talking points and key themes follow:
--This is the most serious engagement that the Israelis and the Palestinians have had in some time.
--This is a moment of opportunity that we hope all parties will embrace, but there is very hard work to do.
--We appear to be on course to prepare seriously for continuous, ongoing negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis for the stablishment of a Palestinian state for the first time in many years.
--We need to make certain everything we do creates the best possible atmosphere for the day of the Annapolis meeting and the day after.
--This meeting is a step in a process, not an end in itself.
--The parties are building confidence on the ground as they carry out their obligations under the Roadmap and improve the atmosphere of trust.
--We are in an environment in which good and moderate leaders, who see the future of their people as a peaceful path of prosperity and independence, need a very strong indication from the international community that they are going to indeed achieve statehood.
--Secretary Rice is encouraged by what she has heard from both sides during her trips to the region.
--The Palestinian people have waited a long time for the dignity that will come with an independent state, and the Israeli people have waited a long time for a peaceful neighbor that can help provide real security.
--We believe these two neighbors living side by side in peace and security would make a big difference in the very nature of the Middle East itself, a region that has too long been torn by strife, turmoil and deprivation.
--Regional support is key to success and essential for a comprehensive Middle East peace. The international meeting in Annapolis is aimed to support an ongoing process and rally international support for the efforts of the Palestinians and the Israelis.
--We welcome the expressions of support for Israeli-Palestinian peace from around the world. We look to members of the international community, whether or not present in Annapolis, to do all they can to support this process.
--Palestinians do not want to live in lawlessness. That is exactly why we are committed to the creation of a Palestinian security force that can actually exercise the duties of the state, one that has a monopoly on the use of force and is able to provide security for its citizens while carrying out its international obligations.
--Much has been said over a long period of time about critical issues like border, refugees and Jerusalem.
--One of the truly crucial components underscoring these issues is how these states will relate to each other in practical terms concerning security and economic issues.
--We are going to do everything we can to help the parties as they try to arrive at an understanding on a wide variety of outstanding issues that must be resolved if there is to be peace and a Palestinian state.
--The U.S. Government is engaged on three tracks: supporting progress in political talks between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; assisting with Palestinian institutional and economic reform and development, including supporting the mission of Quartet Representative Tony Blair; and encouraging tangible improvements on the ground in line with the Israeli and Palestinian Roadmap Phase I commitments.
--There is no stronger advocate for the security of both Palestinians and Israelis than the United States of America.
--We have been committed to the security of Israel through its history and we are going to maintain that promise.
--Similarly, we have stated repeatedly our pledge that we will not abandon the innocent Palestinians living in Gaza, whose humanitarian needs have been jeopardized by Hamas.
--The Secretary has traveled to the region eight times since the start of the year on a near monthly basis to meet with the parties and key regional actors. This is a substantial diplomatic investment by the United States to help the parties realize the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security.
--We have responsible Arab states that have been committed for a long time to the roadmap and a two-state solution. These parties developed the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisions two states living side-by-side, and we will continue working with them as we approach Annapolis and beyond.
--We believe we are receiving very clear signs from all of these states that they want this process to succeed and they are prepared to help. The creation of a Palestinian state is in everyone's interest and is everyone's goal.
NEED TO PERSEVERE
--We should not be surprised when there are ups and downs in the process - that is to be expected.
--We have a Palestinian partner dedicated to curbing violence and opposing terrorism who is struggling against an alternative view for the Palestinians.
--Prime Minister Olmert is now embracing the legacy of Israeli leaders like Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, who were strong on Israel's defense and equally strong in their quest for peace.