[Published 29 April 2015]
Michael Oren – one of seven members of the recently formed Kulanu party elected to Israel’s new Parliament – seems destined to play a pivotal role in torpedoing President Obama’s proposals for a two-state solution aimed at resolving the 100 years old Arab-Jewish conflict.
Agreement has reportedly been reached between Israel’s Prime Minister elect Benjamin Netanyahu and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon for Kahlon to be appointed Finance Minister. Fellow Kulanu members - Yoav Galant and Eli Alalouf - will serve respectively as Housing Minister and Environmental Protection Minister.
Still unannounced is the replacement for Tzipi Livni - who headed the Israeli team in peace talks with the PLO - but who now seems destined to enter into Opposition. These peace talks have remained in a state of suspended animation since April 2014 – despite intensive American efforts to have them resumed.
President Obama’s proposals – first enunciated in 2011 – were re-stated as recently as July 2014 by White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region Philip Gordon at the Ha’aretz Israel Conference for Peace:
“A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. While the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.
Negotiations should therefore 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. Any peace agreement will require robust security provisions that safeguard Israel’s security. And the Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in an independent, sovereign and contiguous state.”
The idea that Israel should be required to make mutually agreed land swaps for territory it retains in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) was never stipulated or mentioned in the letter given by President Bush to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 – whose terms were overwhelmingly endorsed by the House of Representatives 407-9 on 23 June 2004 and the Senate 95-3 the next day. (“American Written Commitments”)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had declared at the Annapolis International Conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007 that any resumed negotiations:
“will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”Michael Oren – Kulanu’s diplomatic voice and former Israeli Ambassador to Washington between 2009 and 2013 - recently called for these 2004 American Written Commitments to be resuscitated:
“A decade ago, in April 2004, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received a letter from American president George Bush, Jr. recognizing Israel’s right to build in long-standing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem like Talpiyot-East and Ramot. Furthermore, Israel was now allowed to build in settlement blocs crucial for Israel’s security, and in which some 80% of Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria reside […] According to the Bush-Sharon letter, these areas will remain within Israel’s borders in any arrangement arrived at with the Palestinians […] it’s time to revive the Bush-Sharon letter and act according to it.”
Obama is going to find it impossible to impose his land swap proposals – if Oren has any say.
Sharon’s ghost has tantalisingly returned to haunt Obama.