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Friday, July 26, 2013

The value of an American commitment

Former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry this week, reminding Kerry that any US guarantee that the upcoming 'negotiations' would be based upon the 1967 lines 1949 armistice lines would violate an explicit written commitment from George W. Bush to the State of Israel.
The group quotes from US president George W. Bush’s letter to Sharon on April 4, 2004, which it said was given as a political quid pro quo, in return for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
According to that letter, “As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of the 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.”
These commitments were later affirmed by a large majority of the US House of Representatives, and – as Baker and Fuchs wrote to Kerry – was “also given legal affirmation as part of an Israeli governmental decision and attached to the disengagement implementation law of October 27, 2004.”
Baker, who wrote the letter with fellow attorney Yossi Fuchs on behalf of the Legal Forum for Israel, also pointed out that the Oslo Accords specifically made no reference to the 1949 armistice lines.
“In the various documents comprising the ‘Oslo Accords’ (1993-99) the PLO and Israel agreed to conduct negotiations on the issue of ‘borders.’ The term “pre-1967 lines” has never been a factor in these agreements, nor has it figured in other accompanying documentation such as the 2003 US sponsored ‘Performance- Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.’”
We all know, of course, that as soon as the Obama junta took power, they reneged on the commitments contained in the Bush letter.
American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed on Friday that there is no record of the Bush administration having agreed to Israel keeping the 'settlement blocs'.
Hillary says the Bush administration never agreed to Israel expanding West Bank communities; insists there is no record of 'any informal or oral agreement' to that effect. The Israelis say the US position was laid out in a 2004 letter from Bush to then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon. Clinton rejected that claim, saying any such US stance was informal and "did not become part of the official position of the United States government." OK now we are back to Clinton word-parsing time.
The letter was even endorsed by Congress.
Well, not only does the letter exist, it even got a Congressional endorsement shortly after it was written in 2004.
The Bush Administration clearly understood that the borders of the two states would NOT look like the 1949 armistice lines (the so-called “Green line” and never the “1967 borders”), and referred back to UNSC Resolution 242 which called for Israel to receive, “Secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” There was wisdom in the formulation, “Any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

And far from being the work of a single man, or single administration, Congress took up the Bush letter in June 2004, passing H. Con. Res. 460 by vast margins in both Houses by both parties:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress–

1. strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which will strengthen the security and well-being of the State of Israel; and

2. supports continuing efforts with others in the international community to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat to the security of Israel.

If an allied, democratic government cannot rely on continuity in the word of an American President for policy specifically supported and endorsed by the Congress of the United States, on what can that – or any other – government rely?
Someone ought to ask Secretart of State Clinton that question. She was the one who claimed she 'couldn't find' the letter, even though she was in the Senate when that resolution was passed.

Clearly, the Obama administration is breaking a commitment made by President Bush to Israel. Of course, we all know that the Obama administration regards George W. Bush as illegitimate, so that's not so surprising.

While Baker and Fuchs' letter was a prerequisite to other action, it ought not to be the end of mention of the Bush letter. It is clear that any agreement - if one is ever reached - between Israel and the 'Palestinians' will be dependent upon US guarantees And any such agreement will also have to be approved by Israel's voters in a referendum.

One would hope that in any campaign over a referendum, it would be pointed out repeatedly that no one can count on anything said by the United States and that in the United States, one administration's commitments are meant to be broken by the next administration just like in any other banana republic. Sad but true. Even if Obama is replaced (whether in January 2017 or by impeachment) we cannot be sure that another President as wicked as Obama will not arise and ignore American commitments to Israel.

America doesn't have friends, it has interests. It doesn't have commitments, it has suggestions. What could go wrong?

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