This was the first time an American president had explicitly mentioned the creation of a “Palestinian state.” During previous negotiations at Camp David in 2000, President Bill Clinton hesitated to mention an independent Palestinian state, instead resorting to more abstract terms of autonomy and self-rule.
The conference kicked off a series of final status talks between Palestinians and Israelis, based upon the Roadmap peace plan endorsed by the United Nations. Their stated goal was to reach agreement by the end of 2008.
Both Palestinian and Israeli leaderships came to the conference weakened. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert led a flimsy coalition in the Knesset, with a strong opposition from right-wing parties (such as the Likud) that did not want to concede territory to Palestinians.
On the other hand, with Hamas controlling the internal affairs of Gaza after June 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s authority was restricted to the occupied West Bank.
As such, some commentators argued that the conference was merely cosmetic, meant to create the appearance of negotiations in order to stave off violence.
The conference, sponsored by the US, managed to gather together nearly 50 state representatives, including Brazil and Senegal. The attendance of Saudi Arabia and Syria was seen as enhancing the status of the subsequent negotiations. The US initiated Syrian presence at the conference despite Washington's previous refusal to engage in dialogue with Damascus, which it accused of supported insurgencies in Iraq and meddling in Lebanese affairs.
Hamas was not represented at the conference, part of the sweeping diplomatic and financial boycott in place since the movement had won 2006 parliamentary elections.
DEMANDS & CONDITIONS
At the conference, President Abbas called for “ending the occupation of all Palestinian occupied territories in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan and what remains of occupied from Lebanese territories. ” Additionally, he urged a permanent solution to “the Palestinian refugee question in all its political, humanitarian, individual and common aspects, consistent with Resolution 194, as emphasized by the Arab peace initiative.”
Prime Minister Olmert also acknowledged the refugee situation. He stated “this pain and this humiliation (referring to the displaced Palestinians) are the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred toward us…we will find the right way, as part of an international effort, in which we will participate, to assist these Palestinians in finding a proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state that will be established in the territories agreed upon between us.”
Olmert did not mention the right of return. Additionally, Israel’s demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was seen as an additional obstacle to achieving an equitable solution. The Palestinian leadership refused this demand.
The joint action committee report from Annapolis announced a "concrete and rigid plan" with its different stages explicitly articulated. According to the plan, both parties would “start immediate and parallel implementation of the first phase of the Roadmap, agree to form a trilateral American-Palestinian-Israeli committee, and continue implementing their commitments as mentioned in the roadmap until reaching a peace agreement.”
In accordance with Phase 1 of the Roadmap, which requires Israel to stop building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Prime Minister Olmert vowed to "freeze" settlement activity.
By June 2008, however, Peace Now reported an acceleration of settlement construction. According to the group, 9,617 housing units had been constructed in East Jerusalem settlements alone.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri called Annapolis a "complete failure" in an interview with Bitterlemons.org. He noted that Prime Minister Olmert had not committed to a defined timetable for a negotiated two-state solution with Palestinians. He also said that the lack of an internal consensus between Palestinian factions and exclusion of the Hamas leadership from the talks meant the conference could not yield practical results.