It may have looked picture perfect, but this was down-to-the wire.
When President Bush's helicopter touched down, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders still hadn't agreed on just what they would announce here today, according to three different diplomats I spoke to, including someone close to the Palestinian talks.
So first, President Bush gave the two leaders a pep talk – and then Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice ushered them into separate rooms for some arm twisting. A Palestinian source said she told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that if he didn't give some ground and agree on some of these principles, today's summit would be perceived as a failure.
The source said he essentially folded on some key issues, making others on team not very happy.
CBS's Mark Knoller at the White House explained, that's why President Bush had his reading glasses on during his speech – they were so late agreeing on it, they didn't have time to print it out for him in a slightly larger type.
The Palestinians were insisting on three things:
1. A timeline for the completion of each phase of the previously agreed American "Roadmap for Peace" which forms the backbone of the current talks. (Deadlines that must be met for each requirement like the dismantling of illegal Israeli settlements/outposts in the West Bank, with penalties incurred for everything not met. They didn't get that.)
2. Clear terms of reference included in joint statement (like UN resolutions,Road Map etc.--didn't get enough of those)
3. American monitoring of security -- so there's an outside source monitoring compliance to road map - someone objective who is saying 'yes, the Israelis are really pulling out of enough settlements,' or 'yes, the palestinians have done all they can do to break up terrorist infrastructure.'
The Israelis agreed to the last of the Palestinians' demands – that an American mechanism to monitor security, through a new 'special envoy.' One of the candidates for the job is retired general James Jones – but he hasn't accepted the job yet, and as all involved told me, no one has agreed just what the job would entail, and how far this 'security envoy's' responsibilities and powers would extend.
Stay tuned. When they have a deal, both the Israelis and the Palestinians say, the Americans will announce it.