Thursday, June 25, 2009

The truth about the agreement on settlement expansion and Gaza

A Guest Post by Rafi G

I have 2 points to make here, and I know DovBear will not like this: [DB: I like it just fine. See the first comment.]

1. The past weeks we have seen debates in many arenas, especially here, with the Obama denial strongly defended by DovBear himself, about whether or not there was a promise by the Bush administration, possibly a secret promise and understanding, to the Sharon government about natural growth. Sec. State Hillary Clinton and various aides have categorically denied it, saying straight out the the Bush letter to Sharon is extremely vague and contains no such promise, and there has been no promise substantiated elsewhere.

In the following opinion piece written by Elliot Abrams in the Wall Street Journal he says straight out that there was such a promise and understanding by the Bush administration and the Obama administration is wrong in their denial of the agreement. The agreement was part of a broad agreement on various issues that came up between Ariel Sharon and George Bush's government and there was a clear understanding to allow natural growth in the settlements.

2. During George Bush's term as president he was dubbed as the greatest friend of Israel. I personally said a number of times that I was not impressed and did not consider him such. I said nothing happens here without the demand/request of the American government and if Sharon made an about face and dismantled and disengaged to Gaza, I was pretty sure that George Bush was somehow behind it. Even if it was never stated as so in the news.

People thought I was crazy. It was all Sharon's idea and if he thought of it what do you want from the Americans but to agree, they said.

Turns out in the same article by Elliot Abrams he says that in 2003 the Bush administration demanded from Sharon dismantlement of a number of settlements including Gaza Strip.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.


On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "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." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "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 & Samaria."

Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."

So take that, deniers.

For the full article, see here.

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