Will Obama stick with Hillary's Thanksgiving present to Bibi?

The Obama administration, following Netanyahu's unilateral announcement of a temporary settlement freeze, has agreed on a quid-pro-quo that builds on a similar precedent set by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush in 2004.  In exchange for Bibi's unprecedented move, the administration for the first time acknowledged specifically that Israel will be entitled to retain lands captured in 1967 as part of any final peace agreement.

Five years ago, Israel's decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza in hopes of advancing the peace process was rewarded by a reciprocal Bush assurance to Sharon that the U.S. would, as part of any final peace deal, support "secure and recognized" borders for Israel and, that "in light of new realities on the ground, including existing major population centers, it is unrealistic to expect a full and complete return to the 1949 armistice line."  Bush's letter also noted that "all previous efforts toward a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion," including the generous Clinton Barak initiative at Camp David in 2000.

Translated from diplomatic jargon, this meant that Israel could be expected to retain major population centers beyond the pre-1967 line like Maale Adumim and Gutsh Etzion.  Significantly, Bush's assurances put the U.S. on Israel's side in rejecting insistence by the Palestinian Authority and Arab leaders on a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 line, also known as the Green Line, also known, as spelled out by Bush, as the 1949 armistice line.

Now, five years later, Netanyahu takes a leaf from Sharon and unilaterally decides on a temporary 10-month construction freeze in West Bank settlements in hopes of reactivating peace negotiations.

And, at the same time, Hillary Clinton takes a leaf from George W. Bush and states on the record that the United States expects the Palestinians to agree to "land swaps" to modify the pre-1967 line and, even more importantly, expects Israel to end up with "secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security security requirements."

This may not be an exact word-for-word replica of the 2004 Bush letter to Sharon, but it's diplomatic plagiarism nonetheless.  Where Bush pointed to "new realities on the ground," Hillary points to "subsequent developments" since the 1967 war. 

Whichever way you cut it, Bibi got quite a bit of quo for his quid from Team Obama.  Note also that Hillary's parameters for a final peace deal are totally silent about East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians demand as the capital of their future state, and fail to mention any "right of return" for Palestinian refugees -- even as they provide for the first time specific security commitments to Israel with regard to final borders.

Under Hillary's formulation, the Obama administration, at last, has formally recognized that any eventual peace deal must be based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call on Israel to withdraw from some -- but not all -- lands captured in the Six-Day War.  While Arab leaders demanded then -- and still do -- that Israel cede all lands captured in 1967, the U.S. prevailed in shaping these U.N. resolutions so as to leave ample room for Israel to retain some of the captured lands.

So where do we go from here?

Hillary's pledges are bound to trigger a new wave of angry responses from Palestinian leaders and the Arab world, which already were seething after her earlier praise of Bibi's willingness to freeze settlement construction without any reciprocal moves by the Palestinian side.  Hillary's description of Bibi's settlement initiative as "unprecedented" stuck in their craw. In this recent episode, the Obama administration backtracked a bit and tried to assuage Palestinian/Arab fury by insisting on a pre-negotiation freeze of construction in East Jerusalem as well.

But the specificity of Hillary's new statement about Israel's security requirements and final borders will not bend easily to any White House attempts to dilute the clear message from its secretary of state binding the U.S. to Israel's retention of built-up population centers beyond the Green Line.

Call it Hillary's Thanksgiving present to Bibi.
The Obama administration, following Netanyahu's unilateral announcement of a temporary settlement freeze, has agreed on a quid-pro-quo that builds on a similar precedent set by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush in 2004.  In exchange for Bibi's unprecedented move, the administration for the first time acknowledged specifically that Israel will be entitled to retain lands captured in 1967 as part of any final peace agreement.

Five years ago, Israel's decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza in hopes of advancing the peace process was rewarded by a reciprocal Bush assurance to Sharon that the U.S. would, as part of any final peace deal, support "secure and recognized" borders for Israel and, that "in light of new realities on the ground, including existing major population centers, it is unrealistic to expect a full and complete return to the 1949 armistice line."  Bush's letter also noted that "all previous efforts toward a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion," including the generous Clinton Barak initiative at Camp David in 2000.

Translated from diplomatic jargon, this meant that Israel could be expected to retain major population centers beyond the pre-1967 line like Maale Adumim and Gutsh Etzion.  Significantly, Bush's assurances put the U.S. on Israel's side in rejecting insistence by the Palestinian Authority and Arab leaders on a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 line, also known as the Green Line, also known, as spelled out by Bush, as the 1949 armistice line.

Now, five years later, Netanyahu takes a leaf from Sharon and unilaterally decides on a temporary 10-month construction freeze in West Bank settlements in hopes of reactivating peace negotiations.

And, at the same time, Hillary Clinton takes a leaf from George W. Bush and states on the record that the United States expects the Palestinians to agree to "land swaps" to modify the pre-1967 line and, even more importantly, expects Israel to end up with "secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security security requirements."

This may not be an exact word-for-word replica of the 2004 Bush letter to Sharon, but it's diplomatic plagiarism nonetheless.  Where Bush pointed to "new realities on the ground," Hillary points to "subsequent developments" since the 1967 war. 

Whichever way you cut it, Bibi got quite a bit of quo for his quid from Team Obama.  Note also that Hillary's parameters for a final peace deal are totally silent about East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians demand as the capital of their future state, and fail to mention any "right of return" for Palestinian refugees -- even as they provide for the first time specific security commitments to Israel with regard to final borders.

Under Hillary's formulation, the Obama administration, at last, has formally recognized that any eventual peace deal must be based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call on Israel to withdraw from some -- but not all -- lands captured in the Six-Day War.  While Arab leaders demanded then -- and still do -- that Israel cede all lands captured in 1967, the U.S. prevailed in shaping these U.N. resolutions so as to leave ample room for Israel to retain some of the captured lands.

So where do we go from here?

Hillary's pledges are bound to trigger a new wave of angry responses from Palestinian leaders and the Arab world, which already were seething after her earlier praise of Bibi's willingness to freeze settlement construction without any reciprocal moves by the Palestinian side.  Hillary's description of Bibi's settlement initiative as "unprecedented" stuck in their craw. In this recent episode, the Obama administration backtracked a bit and tried to assuage Palestinian/Arab fury by insisting on a pre-negotiation freeze of construction in East Jerusalem as well.

But the specificity of Hillary's new statement about Israel's security requirements and final borders will not bend easily to any White House attempts to dilute the clear message from its secretary of state binding the U.S. to Israel's retention of built-up population centers beyond the Green Line.

Call it Hillary's Thanksgiving present to Bibi.

RECENT VIDEOS