In his excellent paper inquiring whether American policy has been altered regarding Israel’s rights in a peace settlement, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold carefully examines President Bush’s previous commitments to Israel. I take it as a given that those commitments are direly threatened by the administration’s refusal even to abide by President Bush’s minimal criteria for attendance at the Annapolis peace conference. Now comes word from Israeli sources regarding President Bush’s upcoming speech at the Annapolis conference:
According to the leading correspondent covering the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Shimon Shiffer of Yediot Ahronot (Israel’s largest newspaper), President Bush’s address at Annapolis “will not be easy for Israeli ears.” In Friday’s magazine, he argues, in an article co-authored by his colleague Nahum Barnea, that Bush will call for “the establsihment of a Palestinian state, the end of ‘occupation,’ and a return of Israel to the 1967 borders, leaving a opening for land swaps.”
The authors explain that Olmert knows that “this text cannot be changed.”
If the report is true, and both of these reporters have direct access to Olmert, then Bush is close to abandoning the April 2004 gurantees on settlement blocs and “defensible borders” that he gave in writing to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. That letter was all Israel received for pulling 9,000 Israelis out of their homes in the Gaza Strip. That was the quid pro quo. Back in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson insisted that Israel was not expected to fully withdraw from the territories it captured in the Six Day War (in a war of self-defense) and this US position was enshrined forty years ago in the language of UN Security Council Resolution 242.
It is difficult to believe that Bush, who is known for his consistency and loyalty, would make this change and demand full withdrawal. In Sunday’s Maariv newspaper, Ben Caspit, its chief foreign affairs correspondent, is reporting that there is a struggle in Washington today over the contents of the Bush Annapolis address, with the Saudis, Rice, and Israel all pulling in different directions. Today, Bush’s old friend Sharon is in a comma in an Israeli hospital and cannot comment on such a change should it occur.
But it is also difficult to explain the sudden decision of the Saudis to attend Annapolis at the level of foreign minister, unless someone in the administration gave them some guarantees.
The message arrives with the last sentence in bold as above. President Bush’s April 2004 letter to Sharon should be reread before it is sent down the memory hole, as should President Bush’s July 2007 announcement of the regional peace conference that is now to convene in Annapolis. Attendance was to to be limited to representatives of nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. Is the United States committed to previous agreements between Israel and the United States? We shall soon see.
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