WASHINGTON – "There were a lot of achievements Israel can be proud of," a senior member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's entourage said on Tuesday evening in a political post-mortem of the Annapolis peace conference.
Perhaps the truest of these purported achievements is the stature granted to the conference by merit of its impressive guest list, with almost 50 nations and major international organizations in attendance.
Israeli officials were also pleased with the joint statement agreed upon with the Palestinians; a statement which fared considerably well by Israel.
"The speeches themselves were an achievement," the official said. "The prime minister was very moved by the position he was given. He felt he was speaking on behalf of the State of Israel and its people, working to create a better future.
Israelis watching the conference (Photo: Reuters)
"And everyone, excluding the Syrian deputy foreign minister, applauded the prime minister's speech. Even the Saudi foreign minister clapped. That is something we're very excited about."
Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitch was also pleased with what had transpired on Tuesday.
"All in all we view Annapolis as having been a positive affair. We have a joint statement that we're pleased with. US President Bush's speech and the prime minister's speech were both very good for Israel and so was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech, by and large. He spoke of ending the violence and putting a stop to terrorism, and that's exactly the spirit we want to see. It leads us towards believing we have a partner for peace," he said.
Negotiations are set to begin on December 12th, a pressing deadline that already has diplomatic officials preparing for the return of the Annapolis delegation on Thursday, after which a date will be set for a meeting between Olmert and Abbas.
The bi-weekly meetings between the two, said Israeli officials, are scheduled to continue.
"This is going to be a long, drawn-out process that will require patience from both sides. But the important thing is that we've laid the cornerstone for that process here at Annapolis, out of a sense of goodwill from both sides and from the Americans and the 47 nations and organizations – which included the Arab League, who all assembled there just to advance the negotiations for peace," said another senior staffer from Olmert's group.