Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas joined US President George W. Bush at the White House on Wednesday as a follow-up to the Middle East peace summit that took place in nearby Annapolis, Maryland 24 hours earlier.
Olmert and Abbas declared at the summit their intention to restart intense negotiations toward concluding a final status peace agreement. Bush said he wanted to get that process started immediately, and so invited the two Middle East leaders to the White House for an inaugural round of talks.
The Israelis and Palestinians have not held serious, direct final status peace talks in over seven years, ever since the Palestinians reacted to Israel's 2000 peace proposals at Camp David by launching a sustained terrorist campaign against the Jewish state.
Both Olmert and Abbas accepted Bush's timetable of reaching a final agreement by this time next year.
But Israel's minister of interior security, Avi Dichter, took issue with that schedule. According to Dichter, the two-year timetable originally stipulated by the US-authored Road Map peace plan, upon which the current talks are being based, was unrealistic when it was first formulated. And now, with the Palestinians having yet to even begin implementing their initial obligations under the Road Map, the timetable is being shortened to a mere 12 months.
Other Israeli security officials who spoke to WorldNetDaily noted that the joint statement agreed to by Olmert, Abbas and Bush made the US administration the sole judge of the two sides' compliance with their obligations as the talks progress.
One security officials warned that the statements made at the summit "leave open the good possibility America may overlook major security concerns for [Israel] in an effort to not stall negotiations."