[Published 28 May 2015]
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appointment of former United Nations ambassador Dore Gold to head up Israel’s Foreign Ministry - ensures that Israel will be confronting President Obama as he continues attempting to deviate from the commitments made to Israel by his predecessor President Bush in a letter dated 14 April 2004 to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Bush Commitments).
The Bush Commitments acknowledged the risks involved in Israel unilaterally disengaging from Gaza and evacuating the 8000 Jews who had established 21 settlements there over the preceding 35 years whilst additionally agreeing to remove another four settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
President Bush assured Israel of the following:
1. the United States remained committed to President Bush’s vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap.President Obama has attempted to subvert the Bush Commitments by proposing Israel withdraw from part of the West Bank and cede part of its own sovereign territory to the Palestine Liberation Organisation in exchange for the area of the West Bank to be retained by Israel - as announced by President Obama in May 2011:
2.The United States would do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.
3. Palestinians would have to undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that included a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.
4. The United States reiterated its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.
5. The United States was strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.
6.It seemed clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement would need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
7. 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.
8. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it would be unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations would 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 was realistic to expect that any final status agreement would only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
”... the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps - so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
President Obama seems to have given up on the strong parliamentary democracy demanded by President Bush being established in the West Bank and Gaza - having failed to back up a recent call by another former American President - Jimmy Carter - for such elections to be held in the West Bank and Gaza - which would be the first held there since 2005.
Until such a democracy is established America should not expect any negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organisation to lead to anywhere but the dustbin of history.
Dore Gold well appreciates the significance of these Bush Commitments and the obligation of Obama to remain bound by them - stating in debriefing.org on 9 June 2009 -
“For example, it still needs to be clarified whether the Obama administration feels bound by the April 14, 2004, Bush letter to Sharon on defensible borders and settlement blocs, which was subsequently ratified by large bipartisan majorities in both the U.S. Senate (95-3) and the House of Representatives (407-9) on June 23-24, 2004. Disturbingly, on June 1, 2009, the State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, refused to answer repeated questions about whether the Obama administration viewed itself as legally bound by the Bush letter. It would be better to obtain earlier clarification of that point, rather than having both countries expend their energies over an issue that may not be the real underlying source of their dispute.”
Writing in Jewish Current Issues on 3 June 2009 Rick Richman noted that the State Department had refused to confirm the Bush Commitments on 21 occasions during the previous week.
Richman then asserted:
“Since Israel met its obligations under the disengagement deal, the U.S. can no more rescind its agreement and commitment than it can restore the lost world of Gush Katif, or the lost security of southern Israel, or the lives that thousands of rockets traumatized, or the property that was destroyed.
Israel ended up having to fight a war in Gaza because of the disengagement. The least the United States can do is meet its own obligations.”
Michael Oren - former Israeli Ambassador in Washington and now a newly elected member of Israel’s governing coalition - called for the resuscitation of these Bush Commitments during his election campaign in January.
The Obama administration needs to clear the air and remove any doubts or concerns that it is trying to surreptitiously vary the Bush Commitments.
Let the shoot-off with the reluctant and recalcitrant Obama administration begin.