Mr. Bush’s speech, while calling for a Palestinian state and promising that he would do whatever he could to help things along, was notable in that he explicitly took on only one of the core issues, the fate of Palestinian refugees, and, on that issue, sided with Israel.
Negotiations are about compromise, and some foreign policy specialists say Ms. Rice should have pressed Mr. Bush to back the Palestinians on something in return. For instance, Mr. Bush could have followed up his comments referring to Israel “as a homeland for the Jewish people” with language about territorial compensation, or land swaps, for some of the large Israeli settlement blocks in the West Bank that Israel would like to keep. He did not.
Mr. Bush could have said Jerusalem would serve as the capital of two states. He did not.
He could have said there would be compensation and resettlement for the Palestinian refugees. He did not do that either.
Middle East specialists are saying that if Ms. Rice is to succeed in actually brokering a peace deal, she will have to get Mr. Bush to push Israel to agree to all of that and much more in the give and take of the haggling to come.
and adds this:-
A senior administration official said Ms. Rice and Mr. Bush decided before the president’s speech in Annapolis that he “would not stake new ground” during his speech.
“It would have been too close to taking positions on negotiations,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue. “There was a balance struck there, and we struck it on the side of caution. Our view, shared by the White House, was that this speech should envelop the process and be encouraging, but it should not be directive.”
That hands-off approach is a marked contrast from the one taken by Mr. Clinton, who got so involved, including many meetings with the longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat at the White House, that even Arab officials joke that Mr. Clinton was personally negotiating the terms for which roads and intersections in Jerusalem would be Palestinian and which would be Israeli.
But those same officials say Ms. Rice has now reinforced the belief in the Arab world that the United States will side with Israel on the tough issues.
“Surprise! The U.S. is more attuned to Israeli interests,” said Ghaith al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator who is the director of advocacy at the American Task Force on Palestine, a nonpartisan group that supports a Palestinian state. “The question now is, what happens next? Will we see an engaged American diplomacy in a constructive way?”
Some Israeli officials say Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will actually need public American pressure to silence critics at home who will undoubtedly complain that he is giving away the store. “She hasn’t even pushed them as far as they want to be pushed,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator.
“A smart American administration understands that this is very difficult for an Israeli prime minister,” Mr. Levy said, “and sometimes they need to be able to say, ‘Washington is holding my feet to the fire on this.’”