Now that Israelis and Palestinians are once again talking peace after seven years of bloodshed, the toughest work lies ahead.
Ending a century of conflict would require tackling so-far irresolvable issues like how to share a piece of land where a Muslim holy site is built on the remains of a Jewish one. Or how to address the needs of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants.
Even if a deal is reached, carrying it out will be hugely difficult - especially with the moderate Palestinian president controlling only part of his territory and Israeli hawks ready to bring down any peacemaking government.
After months of frantic diplomacy, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared before a conference of some 50 countries and international agencies that they were intent on achieving what has eluded their predecessors for decades: bringing peace to peoples with clashing dreams and conflicting claims to the Holy Land. They set themselves an ambitious deadline - December 2008, before President Bush's term ends.
Now is the time to make peace, Bush declared in his address to the conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
"First, the time is right because Palestinians and Israelis have leaders who are determined to achieve peace," he said. "Second, the time is right because a battle is under way for the future of the Middle East and we must not cede victory to the extremists. Third, the time is right because the world understands the urgency of supporting these negotiations."
Pushing on the peace partners was an important backwind from the previously inattentive Bush administration, which is hungry for a diplomatic achievement after the politically bruising Iraq war.
Broad Arab endorsement of the gathering raised hopes that the Palestinians would have the support they need to make painful concessions.
It also raised hopes of broader peace in the region: If Israelis and Palestinians can overcome the historical obstacles that have kept them at war, then the rest of the Arab world could follow.
"In order for the region to enjoy permanent peace, security and stability, peace must be comprehensive," said Jordan's foreign minister, Salheddin al-Bashir. "This requires we also address the two other tracks: the Syrian-Israeli peace track including the issue of the occupied Golan Heights; and the Lebanese-Israeli peace track."
Both Olmert and Abbas can count on support from home. Although they have been defined by their conflict, sizable majorities of Israelis and Palestinians support ending their state of enmity, polls show.
But these important boosts might not be hefty enough to quell peacemaking's old demons.
In a sign of how resilient those demons are, the two sides barely managed after months of negotiations to draft a joint document for the conference that would be a guideline for their aspirations in peace talks.
The vague statement they came up with did not identify the key questions of Palestinian statehood such as final borders and the explosive issue of settlements that Israel wants to retain on West Bank land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
Also not mentioned was the desire of millions of Palestinians to return to family homes they lost after Israel's 1948 creation. Or how to share sovereignty over the holy city of Jerusalem - the highly sensitive topic that helped sink the last round of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking seven years ago.
"The issues are really very difficult ones to resolve," said Yitzhak Reiter, director of the Truman Institute think tank in Jerusalem. " Jerusalem, the (refugees') right of return (are) almost irresolvable."
Speaking privately after the statement was read, members of the Palestinian delegation criticized the document for not taking on the historically contentious issues. They also cast doubt on whether an agreement could be reached by the deadline they had set.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they didn't want to publicly spoil the positive atmosphere the conference was designed to create.
For all its complexities, though, reaching an agreement could turn out to be the easiest part of the new peace push.
Carrying it out could turn out to be the real deal-breaker.
Israel and Palestinians, exhausted by seven years of violence, began groping toward peace more than a year ago. But their efforts received a major push after the violent, Iranian-backed Hamas group wrested control of Gaza nearly six months ago.
Abbas and Olmert both hope that if they clinch a peace deal, and the Palestinians find themselves on the cusp of establishing a state, that will weaken the Islamic group's hold on the territory, and Abbas can reassert control there.
But if rockets continue crashing into southern Israel, and Gaza militants aren't reined in, no peace deal can be implemented, Israel says.
"We will not be able to accept the fact that they (the Palestinians) will be relieved of the obligation to prevent terrorism from the Gaza Strip," Olmert told reporters on Monday.
Hamas and its Iranian patrons are ready to pounce on failure in order to bolster extremists in the region. That reality may help explain why the U.S. invited Syria, another supporter of Mideast militants, to attend the Annapolis meeting. Co-opting the Syrians could help neutralize their support for Hamas and its role as spoiler.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands rallied in Gaza against the peace conference. And Hamas, infamous for suicide bombings and other attacks that killed more than 250 Israelis in recent years, rejected Abbas' appeal for peace with Israel, and threatened to continue its campaign of violence.
"We will use all the tools of resistance to achieve our rights," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
Hardline opposition at home to territorial concessions fueled Israel's reluctance to get too specific in the joint statement. Two coalition partners have already threatened to bolt if Olmert goes too far, something that could pull down his government if they carry out their threats.
On Tuesday, the battle lines were drawn.
" Israel's security shouldn't be compromised by political moves," insisted Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the hardline Yisrael Beiteinu Party. ( AP )