Later today (Wednesday), an interesting letter that I will post at 2 pm will be sent to President Bush outlining key requirements necessary to secure any real success in the November Israel-Palestine Peace Summit that President Bush and Condoleezza Rice will orchestrate in Annapolis.
The signers of the letter are diverse and will send a powerful, provocative message to President Bush.
Signers include former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US Trade Representative Carla Hills, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and US Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering, former Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, former House International Relations Committee Chiarman Lee Hamilton, former Counselor to President Kennedy Theodore Sorensen, and former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker.
The letter essentially makes the point that America — in addition to the Israelis and Palestinians — can ill afford yet another staged “epic effort designed to fail’. In the past, America could earnestly attempt to negotiate solutions in this unresolved Middle East mess but still could ‘afford to fail’.
Today, when as Zbigniew Brzezinski has said, America’s engagement in the Middle East is the defining challenge it faces in this era — another failure will come at the very high cost of further eroding American credibility internationally.
What may be the most remarkable thing about this bipartisan statement is not only who is saying it but what they are prepared to say.
In the letter to Bush, beyond calling on the US and the parties to focus on the outlines of a final status settlement, the co-signatories defy the administration’s views by calling for an end to the policy of isolating Hamas and for a shift in policy toward Syria — including both US/Syria engagement and renewal of Syrian/Israeli negotiations.
Colin Powell — who is not (yet) a signatory — has also called for communication with Hamas, and the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group called for engaging Syria. This letter makes the point even more strongly.
Journalists and bloggers interested in participating on the conference call can contact me before 1:30 pm Eastern time — and I will have my colleagues get you information to listen in to a call with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Nancy Kassebaum Baker, and Lee Hamilton.
The conference call will take place at 2 p.m. — when I will post their letter to President Bush.
This effort has been jointly organized by the US/Middle East Project Inc., the International Crisis Group, and the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program. (My pal and colleague Daniel Levy has been the lead on pulling this together for the New America Foundation.)
— Steve Clemons