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New resolution on Mideast peace passes at UN

With Bush set to leave, the administration tries to nudge forward the process it started in 2007.

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The resolution could even set back progress if it had the effect of enshrining an unsuccessful approach to peace, some analysts say. "A Security Council resolution that provides explicit support for the two-state solution is a good thing. But if it locks in a format or negotiating approach, in particular one that after a year has provided ample proof of not working, then it is a bad thing," says Philip Wilcox, a former US diplomat who is now president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace in Washington.

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Condoleezza Rice, who was in New York Monday and Tuesday for what could be her last appearance at the UN as secretary of State, defines the Annapolis process as "both bottom-up and top-down" – meaning it is not simply the US and other powers knocking the parties' heads and telling them what they have to do. Indeed, Secretary Rice has been criticized for leaving the two sides on their own in negotiations and not playing the traditional American go-between. But, she insists, "considerable progress [has been made] on the core issues."

The two sides have made some progress on "incremental issues," Mr. Wilcox says, but none on the core issues – such as borders, status of Jerusalem, and Israeli settlements.

Israel is supportive of the resolution, said Gabriela Shalev, Israel's ambassador to the UN, speaking to reporters Tuesday in New York. One reason for Israel's stance, she says, is that the resolution gives support to the Annapolis process and its emphasis on bilateral (instead of multilateral) negotiations.

"We are committed to the peace process, but the peace process is something that has to go on between the parties themselves," Ambassador Shalev says. "There can be some kind of pushing from the outside, but in the end, it must be the two parties" that reach an accord.

Even some officials who believe considerable progress has been made over the past year – for example, in creating viable Palestinian security forces in the West Bank – say the resolution reflects the wishes of its sponsors and in particular the personal drive of Rice.

"This has become something of a personal thing for her," said a senior European official, who wished not to be named because the diplomatic discussions over the resolution were ongoing. "You have to give [Rice] credit: She has managed to push the parties further down the road."

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