Thanks for that, BZ. And now the real Annapolis news:
Negotiations are agreed! And, the greatest accomplishment of all: all topics will be covered, saving nothing for second-stage final status talks in an indefinite future (the real failing of Camp David, Oslo, etc.), including right of return, final borders, and a comprehensive settlement with other Arab countries like Syria. The deadline? The end of 2008 (read: the end of Bush’s presidency). From JTA:

In the joint statement, announced by Bush prior to the speeches by Olmert and Abbas, the two sides announced, “In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith, bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, as specified in previous agreements.”

But here’s the biggest, most unexpected news to emerge from the Israeli side:

“For dozens of years, many Palestinians have been living in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew, wallowing in poverty, neglect, alienation, bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of deprivation,” [Israeli Prime Minister Olmert] said. “I know that this deprivation is one of the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred towards us. We are not indifferent to this suffering. We are not oblivious to the tragedies you have experienced.”

THANK YOU. We have been saying this for years, a truth that is dubious from afar surely but painfully obvious for anyone who has spent time in the territories. Fermentation of radical, violent ideals has pickled among Palestinians for 40 years — and more, but the pressure cooker has certainly been 40 years of occupation. It is a deep, deep reward to hear the words come from the Israeli Prime Minister, a concession that by it’s own right changes the very terms of debate between right and left and Israeli and Palestinian.
Palestine and Israel both agreed to fulfill their obligations to the Road Map (old news) but agreed that “the United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map,” which is a significant escalation on the part of the United States. Is this to thanks from the constant progressive pro-peace pressure the past few months? Only some hindsight will tell, which I promise to report here, as the pro-Israel, pro-peace left assesses what we learned from our work recently.
What’s next? Lots more hard work in the States to ensure that the U.S. is an equal arbiter between the two, and political will in Israel and Palestine to actually make this happen. [Post-note: The first meeting of the negotiations steering committee will take place Dec 12th.]
Do note that the punditry will now begin, with those who desire to stillborn any concessions by claiming that Annapolis is already a failure, that negotiations will fail later, or that the other side isn’t worthy of discussion. But the very simple act of agreeing to discuss after SEVEN YEARS of stagnation, is a huge, huge step forward out of the balagan.
Mazel tov, everyone. There is hope after all.