When Caroline Glick was here yesterday I wanted to ask her about the 2004 letter from President Bush to then-PM Ariel Sharon. At that time, immediately before the withdrawal from Gaza, Bush made two ground-breaking statements. First, he said that
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, 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 then he added this:
It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, as part of any final status agreement, will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than Israel…
I wanted to ask Ms. Glick how she understood the first of these statements, in the light of the continued complaints by Condoleezza Rice that Israel is “violating the road map” by constructing new homes inside existing settlements such as Elkana and in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, places which certainly count as ‘Israeli population centers’ which would remain in Israel in any reasonable final agreement.
And I wanted to ask why, considering the second statement, the US insists that ‘everything is on the table’ for negotiations, including the unacceptable and absurd demand for a right of return for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees, something that is equivalent to ending the Jewish state.
I have written about this contradiction before (see “Annapolis is an irrelevant joke“), but I remained profoundly mystified by my own government’s schizophrenia with respect to its ‘valued ally’, Israel.
I didn’t have an opportunity to ask Ms. Glick what she thought, but in her column today she has answered my question without being asked:
According to last Thursday’s Washington Post, Bush administration officials are doing everything they can to try to get out of the President’s commitment to Sharon. Justifying the letter as an insincere piece of political maneuvering used to help Sharon expel the Jews from Gaza and Northern Samaria in 2005, they explain that the letter is no longer politically necessary. It served its purpose of drumming up domestic Israeli support for the now completed withdrawal and expulsion and ought to be set aside.
National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, at a news briefing in January, suggested that Bush’s 2004 letter was aimed at helping Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. “The president obviously still stands by that letter of April of 2004, but you need to look at it, obviously, in the context of which it was issued,” he said. [my emphasis]
So there’s nothing to be mystified about. Bush wrote the letter to help smooth the path to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and now that that is done it has become ‘inoperative’.
The Washington Post, by the way, consistently refers to ‘settlement expansion’, but in fact the boundaries of the ‘settlements’ and neighborhoods in question are not being expanded; homes are being constructed within them.
There is apparently a disagreement between the US and Israel about unpublicized understandings of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ settlement construction. The US claims there are no such understandings, and that any construction outside of 1967 borders is a problem. Israel says that there is an understanding that unsubsidized construction can continue within settlements and neighborhoods that are expected to become part of Israel.
But if the Bush letter has any significance, it certainly must imply that what Israel does within the boundaries of Elkana, for example, is none of our business. If it doesn’t mean at least that, then what does it mean? What exactly is it that President Bush “stands by” in the letter?
Present State Department positions seem to be indistinguishable from those of Mahmoud Abbas, who continues to insist on 1967 borders and a right of return.
If Hadley’s remarks are taken seriously, the word of the President of the United States is no better than that of Yasser Arafat, who lied about recognizing Israel and renouncing terrorism in order to get his foot in the door when he signed the Oslo Accord.