Obama Abandons U.S. Commitments to Israel

While President Obama continues to insist that Israel live up to her prior commitments, he apparently believes that United States it not similarly bound.  In today's Wall Street Journal, former National Security Council official Elliott Abrams debunks the Obama administration's position that Israel and the United States did not reach an agreement over Israeli settlement  expansion. As it turns out, not only was an agreement reached that permitted natural growth (as the current Israeli government contends) but the agreement was paid for with the dislocation of 8,000 Israeli Jews from Gaza and Samaria (the northern West Bank).

The U.S. government . . . 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.

In return for Israel's actions, President Bush explicitly rejected a Palestinian right of return.  He also became the first president to officially recognize that Israel would retain some settlements in any final agreement, and that natural growth would be permitted in the interim.  Abrams explains:

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "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."

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.

Now that President Obama has reneged on the issue of settlement growth, one must wonder whether other past assurances to Israel are also in jeopardy.  President Obama appears willing to re-divide Jerusalem and in recent days has clarified that his demand against natural growth in the settlements includes areas of East Jerusalem, which most Israelis do not even consider to be part of the settlements.

Four years on, the supposed rewards that would accrue to Israel following her wrenching withdrawal from Gaza have completely vanished.  America's new foreign policy makers do not want to be seen as meddling in Iran's internal affairs, but are happy to demonize half a million Jews living peaceful lives in their ancestral homeland. The sole positive development to emerge from the "disengagement" from Gaza in 2005 is that Israel's supporters now know that even the most painful concessions will not be reciprocated, and even by Israel's lone putative ally, because the false myths that drive the so-called peace process require constant concessions by Israel in return for illusive promises of peace.

Mr. Greenberg is an attorney in New York City and has written about legal issues at pajamasmedia.com.