Can the US be trusted to live up to its commitments to Israel?

In 2004, President Bush wrote to then-PM Ariel Sharon and said, among other things:

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…

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…

This was part of an effort to get Israel to withdraw from Gaza, which happened in 2005 — with disastrous results.

Do you think the US can be trusted to live up to its commitments to Israel?

Read this excerpt from a State Department Press conference on June 1, 2009 and decide for yourself. “Mr. Wood” is Robert Wood, Deputy Department Spokesman, and unfortunately I don’t know who the reporter named “James” is:

QUESTION: The United States, in the form of a letter that President Bush sent to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, made certain commitments to the Israeli state. I have tried to ask whether or not the Obama Administration feels bound by the commitments that President Bush expressed in that letter, which the Israelis would certainly feel comprise obligations on the part of the United States that we have made. Does the United States regard itself as – right now, as being bound by those commitments that President Bush made?

MR. WOOD: Look, what we are trying to do, James, is to get both parties to implement their obligations, written obligations in the Roadmap. We’re trying to get those implemented. Our vision for a two-state solution cannot happen if these obligations are not, you know, held to. And so what Senator Mitchell has been trying to do is to work with the two sides. Both sides have an interest in meeting these obligations. They both want peace. We have said we will be a partner in trying to help them implement them – implement their obligations.

QUESTION: What about the letter?

MR. WOOD: Well, I – look, I speak for this Administration. I’ve told you exactly what we are doing with regard to trying to get both parties to live up to their written obligations.

QUESTION: What about our written obligations? Do we live up to the ones that we set?

MR. WOOD: Look, we – the United States lives up to its obligations. Right now, we are focused on, as I said, trying to get both sides to adhere to the Roadmap so that we can move forward toward that two-state solution. And it’s not going to be easy, as you know. We’ve spoken to that many times. And we’re going to continue to try to do that.

QUESTION: Is the letter binding or not on this Administration?

MR. WOOD: Look, what I’m saying to you, James, is we have – there are a series of obligations that Israel and the Palestinians have undertaken.

QUESTION: I haven’t asked about their obligations and what they’ve undertaken. I’ve asked about a letter that this country sent to Israel. I’d like you to address that letter.

MR. WOOD: Well –

QUESTION: Is it binding on this Administration?

MR. WOOD: Well, this Administration is – as I said, has laid out its proposals, its strategy for moving forward. And that’s about the best I can help you with on that, James.

QUESTION: Does it entail that letter?

MR. WOOD: I’ve said what I can say on this right now.

QUESTION: Robert, do you realize that by not saying yes, indeed the U.S. Government continues to be bound by the letter that former President George W. Bush sent, you are leaving open in the air the possibility that it does not see itself as bound?

MR. WOOD: I don’t believe I’m doing that at all. What I’m saying to you is we have had a series of discussions with our Israeli and Palestinian partners. We’ve had discussions about their obligations and what both sides need to do. Both sides are well aware of what they need to do, and they know that we are trying to help them meet their obligations. And we’ll continue to do that.

And I’m just not going to get into the substance of what a previous administration may have agreed to. I’m focused on what this Administration is trying to do right now. And that’s where we are.

Okay, thank you all.

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