Israeli and Palestinian leaders set timetable for peace

by Steve Handlesman
NBC News

In Annapolis Maryland, Tuesday, at called by President Bush, Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to restart peace talks and work toward creation of a Palestinian state by the end of next year.

President Bush himself has resisted timetables, but before he flew back to Washington, he got an Arab Israeli timetable.

It was more than just the pretty photo op at the Middle East Summit held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

President Bush got Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to agree to a timetable.

Mr. Bush himself announced it at the climax of his Annapolis summit.

"The day is coming when Palestinians will enjoy the blessings that freedom brings. And all Israelis will enjoy the security they deserve.   That day is coming," said the President.

Olmert and Abbas agreed to set a December 31, 2008 deadline.

That gives both sides just over a year to work out an agreement.

They agreed to settle core issues, like who rules Jerusalem.

And they agreed to end Palestinian attacks on Jews and Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

Olmert and Abbas said they'll meet every two weeks.

Speaking through an interpreter Prime Minister Olmert said, "We want peace. We demand an end to terror. I believe that the time has come.  We are ready."

Also speaking through an interpreter Abbas said, "From this day we stretch our hands to you as equal partners in peace. The whole world is our witness."

In fact President Bush got more than 50 countries to come and endorse his summit.

There were representatives from the Lebanese and Jordanian governments.

Even the Saudis and the Syrians, who usually won't be seen with Israelis attended the meeting.

"The task begun here at Annapolis will be difficult. Yet the parties can approach this work with confidence.  The time is right. The cause is just. And with hard effort, I know they can succeed," said Mr. Bush.

The President promised that he will stay personally involved in the Middle East peace process.
But as summit delegates got down to work, President Bush flew back to Washington.

Aides said, unlike President Clinton, President Bush will not actually take part in these new Arab Israeli peace talks.