President Bush's 2004 letter to Ariel SharonAmerican 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' (Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs).
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.If we're going to parse words, let's at least put the original ones on the table. Here's the Bush letter.
His ExcellencyIt should be obvious from the letter that it was a quid pro quo for the Gaza expulsion. It should also be obvious that Bush was committing the United States to the letter's provisions. Clinton tries to argue against 'an informal or oral agreement.' This one seems to have been written.
Prime Minister of Israel
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Thank you for your letter setting out your disengagement plan.
The United States remains hopeful and determined to find a way forward toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. I remain committed to my June 24, 2002 vision of two states living side by side in peace and security as the key to peace, and to the road map as the route to get there.
We welcome the disengagement plan you have prepared, under which Israel would withdraw certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza, and withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank.
These steps described in the plan will mark real progress toward realizing my June 24, 2002 vision, and make a real contribution toward peace. We also understand that, in this context, Israel believes it is important to bring new opportunities to the Negev and the Galilee. We are hopeful that steps pursuant to this plan, consistent with my vision, will remind all states and parties of their own obligations under the road map.
The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking represents. I therefore want to reassure you on several points.
First, the United States remains committed to my vision and to its implementation as described in the road map. The United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan. Under the road map, Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel. [Note - even Annapolis violated this provision! CiJ]
The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror, including sustained, targeted, and effective operations to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. Palestinians must undertake a comprehensive and fundamental political reform that includes a strong parliamentary democracy and an empowered prime minister.
Second, there will be no security for Israelis or Palestinians until they and all states, in the region and beyond, join together to fight terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations.
The United States reiterates 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. [The 1949 armistice lines did not constitute 'secure, defensible borders,' and one would have to be totally ignorant of the history of this region not to realize that use of the term 'secure, defensible borders' means something other than those lines. CiJ]
Third, Israel will retain its right to defend itself against terrorism, including to take actions against terrorist organizations. The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and 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 that would have to be addressed by any other means.
The United States understands that after Israel withdraws from Gaza and/or parts of the West Bank, and pending agreements on other arrangements, existing arrangements regarding control of airspace, territorial waters, and land passages of the West Bank and Gaza will continue.
The United States is strongly committed to Israel's security and well-being as a Jewish state. 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 in Israel. [NO 'right of return.' CiJ]
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 populations 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 all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. [That's the passage whose existence or binding effect Mrs. Clinton denies. CiJ]
It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities. I know that, as you state in your letter, you are aware that certain responsibilities face the State of Israel. Among these, your government has stated that the barrier being erected by Israel should be a security rather than political barrier, should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues including final borders, and its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.
As you know, the United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent, so that the Palestinian people can build their own future in accordance with my vision set forth in June 2002 and with the path set forth in the road map.
The United States will join with others in the international community to foster the development of democratic political institutions and new leadership committed to those institutions, the reconstruction of civic institutions, the growth of a free and prosperous economy, and the building of capable security institutions dedicated to maintaining law and order and dismantling terrorist organizations.
A peace settlement negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians would be a great boon not only to those peoples but to the peoples of the entire region.
Accordingly, the United States believes that all states in the region have special responsibilities: to support the building of the institutions of a Palestinian state; to fight terrorism, and cut off all forms of assistance to individuals and groups engaged in terrorism; and to begin now to move toward more normal relations with the State of Israel.
These actions would be true contributions to building peace in the region. Mr. Prime Minister, you have described a bold and historic initiative that can make an important contribution to peace. I commend your efforts and your courageous decision which I support. As a close friend and ally, the United States intends to work closely with you to help make it a success.
George W. Bush
You can find Sharon's letter to Bush here.
Bush and Sharon met at the White House on April 14, 2004. Here is part of a letter sent by Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass to confirm the understandings that Bush and Sharon reached at that meeting.
Dr. Condoleezza RiceMaybe someone should print this post out for Mr. Wood and Mr. Crowley at the State Department? Then they can stop pretending that the letter doesn't exist.
National Security Adviser
The White House
Dear Dr. Rice,
On behalf of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Ariel Sharon, I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us:
1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. An Israeli team, in conjunction with Ambassador Kurtzer, will review aerial photos of settlements and will jointly define the construction line of each of the settlements.
2. Removal of unauthorized outposts: the Prime Minister and the Minister of defense, jointly, will prepare a list of unauthorized outposts with indicative dates of their removal; the Israeli Defense forces and/or the Israeli Police will take continuous action to remove those outposts in the targeted dates. The said list will be presented to Ambassador Kurtzer within 30 days.
3. Mobility restrictions in Judea & Samaria: the Minister of Defense will provide Ambassador Kurtzer with a map indicating roadblocks and other transportational barriers posed across Judea & Samaria. A list of barriers already removed and a timetable for further removals will be included in this list. Needless to say, the matter of the existence of transportational barriers fully depends on the current security situation and might be changed accordingly.
UPDATE 1:51 AM
Israel has officially rejected Clinton's claim that there were no understandings.
Israeli officials rejected on Saturday a statement by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissing Israeli assertions that the Bush administration had agreed to allow some construction in the settlements to allow for natural growth.Obama's special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is coming here on Tuesday. Should be fun, eh?
"There is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which, of course, people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government," Clinton told reporters on Friday, in a news conference with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, at the State Department.
Clinton said that despite reports of such understandings, which were outlined by former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams in The Washington Post in April, "There are contrary documents that suggest that they were not to be viewed as in any way contradicting the obligations that Israel undertook pursuant to the road map. And those obligations are very clear."
In response, a senior government official reiterated Jerusalem's position that understandings "were reached between the Israel and American government concerning settlements, and on the basis of those understanding Israel accepted the road map and disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Those understandings have been confirmed publicly by leading officials of the Bush administration."
Clinton and other State Department officials have also repeatedly refused to endorse a written document in 2004 from then US president George W. Bush to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, in which he acknowledged that it was not realistic to expect Israel to pull back completely to the June 1967 lines, something Israel interpreted as US support for its holding on to the large settlement blocs close to the Green Line.
Israel officials have long maintained that construction in these specific settlement blocs should not be subject to the same restraints imposed on other settlements, which are mostly located outside of the security fence and often near Palestinian population centers.