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Monday, July 05, 2010

'Settlement blocs' for a 'settlement freeze'?

Prime Minister Netanyahu is considering making an offer that might be attractive to the Obama administration. Netanyahu may offer to extend the 'settlement freeze' outside the 'settlement blocs' in return for President Obama recognizing (sort of - and we'll get to that) the Bush letter of 2004. JPost reports:
The Jerusalem Post has learned that, according to this proposal, Obama would publicly hint at acceptance of then-US president George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to then prime minister Ariel Sharon, and Netanyahu would say that while settlement construction would continue inside the large settlement blocks, it would not be restarted outside of those areas.

Bush’s letter, which was instrumental in enabling Sharon to get 2005’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip through the cabinet, stated: “It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

Israel has widely interpreted this to mean that the US backed its position that the major settlement blocks would remain inside Israel in any future agreement. The Obama administration had never endorsed this letter, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying last year that there were no “informal or oral enforceable agreements” regarding the settlements with the Bush administration.

A formal endorsement of that letter by the Obama administration would be considered significant in Jerusalem, and a Netanyahu willingness to extend the moratorium freeze in the majority of the West Bank would likely be seen as somewhat of a concession in Washington.

This formula, according to officials, would be one way to finesse what is looming as a major issue of contention with the US: whether the 10-month-old settlement moratorium set to expire at the end of September will be extended.
Three comments. First, extending the 'one-time settlement freeze' would be hug concession on Israel's part, and there is no way it should even be considered without a formal endorsement - not just a hint - by Obama of the Bush letter.

Second, the 'Palestinians' would likely blow up the talks if if either Obama accepted the letter or if Netanyahu does not extend the 'settlement freeze' to at least where it currently applies. All they will offer is the possibility of direct talks. Maybe. If the Arab League approves.

Third, while it's a thought, I cannot see Obama agreeing to this. They made such a big deal out of rejecting the Bush letter that it seems most unlikely that they would now embrace it.

In other words, nice try but this isn't going to happen.


In case anyone needs confirmation that Obama is not going to accept the Bush letter.
During a conference call Friday with reporters, Dan Shapiro, the White House National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, declined to say whether the 2004 letter reflected the Obama administration's understanding of the parameters or borders of a final settlement to the conflict.

"I don't think … we'll have a comment on these kinds of … private discussions that we're having with the parties. We have a very good understanding with our Israeli partners about the foundations of this relationship and this effort to move toward our shared goal of comprehensive peace and two states," he said.

Robert Danin, a Middle East specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Quartet — the diplomatic body that represents the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — does not recognize the commitments from Mr. Bush to Mr. Sharon either.

Mr. Danin, who in the spring left a position in the office of Tony Blair, the Quartet's representative in Jerusalem, said last week, "That letter and the statement was a U.S.-Israel understanding, it was never endorsed by the Quartet as such, it has never been a Quartet issue as such."
What could go wrong?


At 8:20 PM, Blogger Mr. Gerson said...

Obama has proven himself, time and again, to be a LIAR.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its Netanyahu who wants a fig leaf from Obama for breaking his promise to the revanants.

I will be surprised if he gets one.

What could go wrong indeed

At 10:06 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Of course not. Israel constantly gives and either receives nothing in return or sees past commitments made to it disregarded.

And Netanyahu seems more concerned with not offending Obama than he is concerned with keeping his word to fellow Israelis.

What could go wrong indeed


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