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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Could Israel renege on the 'road map'?

President Obama dropped in on a meeting at the White House on Tuesday between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and National Security Adviser James Jones. Writing in the JPost, former far Left MK Naomi Chazan describes Obama's visit as 'particularly meaningful' coming just a few hours before Obama's departure to Riyadh. She believes that it was an attempt by Obama to show a 'balanced approach.' I believe it more likely that Obama dropped in to read Barak the riot act over Israel's defiance of his command to stop all building in the 'settlements,' including the eastern half of the City of Jerusalem. But Chazan's article raises an important point that deserves airing.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday said that understandings on settlement construction with the US had formed the basis of Israel's acceptance of the road map in 2003 and the adoption of the disengagement plan in 2005, firing back at Washington for its demand for a settlement freeze that would include natural growth.

The implication of the officials' comments were clear: that if the US was changing its understandings on the settlements, it was undermining the foundations of the road map and was in essence reneging on understandings that were an essential part of Israel's decision to leave the Gaza Strip.

According to the officials in the Prime Minister's Office, "over the past decade, important understandings were reached on the issues of settlements, understandings that Israel abided by. While Israel committed itself not to build new settlements and to address the unauthorized outposts, there was an effort to allow for normal life in existing communities, especially those in the large settlement blocs that will definitely stay part of Israel in any final-status agreement."

According to those officials, the "overall concept was that neither Israel nor the Palestinians would take unilateral steps that would prejudge a final peace agreement. Those understandings reached between Washington and Jerusalem provided a crucial foundation for US-Israeli cooperation in the peace process.

"On the basis of these understandings, the government accepted the road map in 2003, and adopted the disengagement plan in 2005," the officials continued. "Israel will continue to abide by these bilateral understandings and seeks to strengthen them with the new US administration."

Dov Weisglass, who was intimately involved in reaching these understandings with the US, wrote in Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday that there was "no doubt" that the Bush administration recognized Israel's right to build within the construction lines of the settlements, on condition that no new settlements would be established, that there would be no expropriation of Palestinian land for the settlements and that no budgets would be allocated for encouraging settlement. [The reference to budgets refers to the fact that Israel subsidizes housing in areas that are regarded as 'national priority areas.' Until 1992, Judea, Samaria and Gaza housing routinely received such subsidies. That is no longer the case. CiJ].

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said there was concern that the US was now attempting to roll back those agreements.
If the basis that underpinned Israel's acceptance of the 'road map' is no longer there, can Israel void its commitments under the 'road map'? Let me clarify, because Chazan makes it sound like Israel will go back to the Gaza Strip if there is no 'road map.' I'd be shocked if Israel re-established the Jewish towns in Gaza whose inhabitants were expelled four years ago. But Israel might be willing to use Obama's undermining of the 'road map's foundations as a basis for stating that Israel is no longer committed to a document whose end game is a 'Palestinian state.' Two months ago, the government was 'considering' doing just that. In other words, Obama may be undermining his own stated interestes by trying to undermine Israel's interests.


At 5:19 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I've been urging the same thing for quite awhile now and I believe Israel should go further: pass a law annexing Yesha by a date certain unless the Palestinians want to negotiate. After forty two years, its time to dispose of the so-called TSS and give Israel sovereignty over land won in a defensive war. Israel need not wait forever for the Palestinians to make up their minds about talking to Israel and Nature abhors a vacuum.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

......... if we only had a brain.

......... a heart.

......... the nerve.


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