Bush: US Policy is that some settlements remain…

Our friend W in 2004 committed in writing that he supports a US policy in the Israel-Palestinian conflict that recognizes that some large Israeli settlements will remain intact and that past armistice lines, ie, pre-1967, are untenable.  This was a major positive development for Israel in its ongoing diplomatic/military jockeying with the Palestinians over a final peace settlement.  And why don’t American Jews vote for W? (Don’t worry, I know the reasons.)  And, if anyone doubted W’s courage in taking this step, note Arafat’s quote following this article, about what he would do if the US affirmed this position  — namely, end the peace process and launch more violence.  W stared down that threat and did the right thing by Israel.

Read the article below from April 2004.  W affirmed this commitment this month while in the region…

Article from April 2004: Israel will not be asked in the future to withdraw to the 1949 cease-fire lines (the Green Line) on the West Bank, according to a letter U.S. President George Bush is to present to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington this week.

According to the letter, the determination of borders in a final status accord will take into consideration “demographic realities” on the ground.Sharon leaves tomorrow night for a crucial meeting with Bush at the White House on Wednesday. The main item on the agenda is Sharon‘s disengagement plan.The two leaders will exchange letters that detail both Sharon‘s plan, and what America will provide in exchange for the Israeli pullout. After the meeting, Sharon and Bush will make statements from the White House Rose Garden.

They will meet in the residential wing of the White House, to emphasize Bush’s support for Sharon. A proposal to hold the discussion at the presidential retreat in Camp David was rejected because of Israeli concern that it retains a negative image as the place where the Israeli-Palestinian peace process collapsed four years ago.

In Israel, the Likud party’s central election committee will meet this afternoon to discuss Sharon‘s proposal to hold a Likud referendum on the Gaza evacuation plan within three weeks. The committee is expected to set a date for the Likud poll, apparently at the end of April, immediately after Independence Day.

An Israeli delegation of Sharon‘s bureau chief Dov Weisglass, National Security Adviser Giora Eiland, and Sharon’s foreign policy adviser Shalom Turjeman last night left for Washington to finish work on the letters to be exchanged. Today the Israeli officials are to meet with their American counterparts, led by Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley.

Sharon‘s letter to Bush will state that the prime minister intends to bring the separation plan to his cabinet and to the Knesset for approval. The letter says the plan includes the withdrawal of all Jewish settlements and Israel Defense Forces from the entire Gaza Strip, apart from the Philadelphi Road on the Egyptian border, and that it also calls for the evacuation of four Jewish settlements in the northern Samaria section of the West Bank.

Sharon‘s letter will reiterate Israel‘s commitment to the road map peace plan and to Bush’s two-states vision, and it will emphasize that Israel‘s planned steps under the separation plan are consistent with the road map.

Bush’s letter to Sharon will also contain the following:

* Reiteration of America’s commitment to Israel‘s security and to the preservation of its strategic qualitative edge.

* A statement of commitment to the road map, and to the prevention of other diplomatic initiatives.

* Recognition of Israel‘s right to self defense and its right, as need arises, to carry out anti-terror operations in areas from which its forces are to be withdrawn.

* A declaration that Palestinian refugees can be absorbed in the future in the Palestinian state, just as Jewish refugees from Arab states were absorbed in Israel.

Israeli officials believe the section of this letter from Bush referring to final status borders is highly significant. They believe it constitutes U.S. recognition of Israel‘s future annexation of West Bank settlement blocs and the negation of a right of Palestinian refugee return to Israel.

Israel has been pushing for a clearer wording to the letter, but the Americans have made it clear that it is difficult for them to include an outward statement against the right of return due to their relations with Europe and the Arab states.

Israel also expects that the Bush administration will support the planned route of the separation fence. In exchange for such support, Israel has promised that no “enclaves” will be created that trap hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and that the West Bank town of Ariel will not be connected to the main separation fence.

This weekend, MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), one of the party’s main opponents of the separation plan, petitioned the Likud election committee to demand that Sharon‘s request to move up the date of the referendum be rejected. Erdan argues that the Likud committee should allow at least 21 days of discussion about the plan from when Sharon releases its details – which, says Erdan, have yet to be made public.

Also, Erdan says, scheduling the referendum immediately after Israel‘s Memorial Day and Independence Day would force Likud members to canvass on these days, showing disrespect for the memorial and holiday observances

A statement, on behalf of Arafat and the entire Palestinian leadership, said such an agreement would “lead to the destruction of the chances for the peace process and security and stability in the region. It will also restart the vicious cycle of violence in the region and end all the agreements and commitments that have been signed.”


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