Bush: ‘Right Time’ for Mideast Peace Negotiations

By Nitya

Nov 27, 2007 8:33am

ABC News’ Ann Compton, Jennifer Duck and Jonathan Karl Report: In remarks prepared for the landmark conference in Annapolis, President Bush warns the world that if a creation of a Palestinian state were easy it would have been done by now.

Bush claims the time is exactly right because Israeli and Palestinian leaders are ready to make a deal. Under intense security here on he campus of the Naval Academy in Annapolis,this day is not for negotiating the terms of a new state, it is merely to get the ball rolling.

In an excerpt of his 11am remarks, Bush said: "Our purpose here in Annapolis is not to conclude an agreement.  Rather, it is to launch negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. For the rest of us, our job is to encourage the parties in this effort – and to give them the support they need to succeed."

WATCH LIVE COVERAGE OF PRESIDENT BUSH’S SPEECH ON ABC NEWS NOW.

To support the difficult process of creating a Palestinian state, Bush has invited all the Mideast neighbors — except for the Hamas faction in the Palestinian Parliament who is bitterly opposed to the conference.

In fact, expectations in Annapolis are low.  The meeting has already accomplished its most ambitious goal:  broad Arab participation. Never before have so many Arab nations taken part in peace talks with Israel (the last time there was any real Arab involvement was 1991 in Madrid, where 3 Arab governments were represented."

David Welch, the top State Department official for the Mideast and the former U.S. ambassador to both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, said the "key difference" this process has more potential than Clinton’s efforts in 2000 "is Arab involvement."

In brief remarks last night, Bush promised his "personal commitment," but his speech today will not break any new ground.  His central message is to challenge the international community to support the upcoming negotiations. 

The oft-stated goal of achieving a peace agreement by the end of the Bush presidency isn’t necessarily realistic.  A senior U.S. official said, "It will take more than luck, it will take magic."

A senior Israeli official involved in negotiations describes the meeting as more than photo-op, but that there is no way to reach an agreement that does not include Gaza.  And, he said, "Abbas can’t even set foot in Gaza."

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