Two representatives of the United States' previous administration, under former president Bill Clinton, on Tuesday criticized the policies of current U.S. President George W. Bush and the conduct of the Annapolis Middle East peace process.
Special Middle East coordinator in the Clinton administration, Dennis Ross, and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer were speaking in the framework of the "Facing Tomorrow" Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
Ross, chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, the group responsible for organizing the presidential conference, said that last November's Annapolis conference was not planned properly, that all of the parties should have agreed in advance on at least some of the main principles and that more groundwork should have been done to give both the Israelis and the Palestinians the sense that the event could make a difference for them.
According to Ross, the Palestinians were not given a sense that their lives would be improved by the Annapolis process, and the Israelis weren't given a sense that the Palestinians would take responsibility for security issues. Ross, who is likely to return to the State Department if the Democrats retake the White House in November, said it was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fault that the peace process is being conducted outside of the public context.
Kurtzer, an adviser on foreign policy and the Middle East to Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama, said in a session on the role of Jerusalem as the cultural capital of the Jewish people that before the subject could be addressed, it was necessary to recognize a number of fundamental facts, including what to do about the city's Arabs who do not consider themselves part of that enterprise.
"It will be impossible to make progress on serious peace talks without putting the future of Jerusalem on the table," Kurtzer said.
The former U.S. ambassador also criticized the Annapolis process and said the current administration in Washington is not seriously advancing the negotiations because it cannot be done without putting the future of Jerusalem on the agenda.
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