09 June 2009
The U.S. Chutzpah vs Israeli Settlements
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 9, No. 2 9 June 2009
U.S. Policy on Israeli Settlements
by Dore Gold
The Obama administration's tough, confrontational rhetoric on Israeli settlements raises a number of specific questions: Were Israeli settlements a violation of international law? Were Israeli settlements a violation of agreements and an obstacle to further progress in any future peace talks? Did the administration envision Israel withdrawing completely to the 1967 lines or did it accept the idea that Israel would retain part of the territories for defensible borders?
Many observers are surprised to learn that settlement activity was not defined as a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords or their subsequent implementation agreements. If the U.S. is now seeking to constrain Israeli settlement activity, it is essentially trying to obtain additional Israeli concessions that were not formally required according to Israel's legal obligations under the Oslo Accords.
President Bush's deputy national security advisor, Elliot Abrams, wrote in the Washington Post on April 8, 2009, that the U.S. and Israel negotiated specific guidelines for settlement activity, whereby "settlement activity is not diminishing the territory of a future Palestinian entity." If the U.S. is concerned that Israel might diminish the territory that the Palestinians will receive in the future, then the Obama team could continue with the quiet guidelines followed by the Bush administration and the Sharon government.
Given the fact that the amount of territory taken up by the built-up areas of all the settlements in the West Bank is estimated to be 1.7 percent of the territory, the marginal increase in territory that might be affected by natural growth is infinitesimal. Moreover, since Israel unilaterally withdrew 9,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the argument that a settler presence will undermine a future territorial compromise has lost much of its previous force.
The U.S. and Israel need to reach a new understanding on the settlements question. Legally and diplomatically, settlements do not represent a problem that can possibly justify putting at risk the U.S.-Israel relationship. It might be that the present tension in U.S.-Israeli relations is not over settlements, but rather over the extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank that the Obama administration envisions.
Disturbingly, on June 1, 2009, the State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, refused to answer repeated questions about whether the Obama administration viewed itself as legally bound by the April 2004 Bush letter to Sharon on defensible borders and settlement blocs. It would be better to obtain earlier clarification of that point, rather than having both countries expend their energies over an issue that may not be the real underlying source of their dispute.
Obama's true agenda...Throw Israel Under the Bus
JOHN VOIGHT ON OBAMA'S DISTAIN FOR ISRAEL
A message to the Jewish people and the entire world
Chronicles I - 16:15-18: "Forever remember His covenant that he commanded forever; That He made with Abraham and swore to Isaac; and confirmed in a decree for Jacob, for Israel, as an eternal covenant; saying to You I will give the Land of Cannan as your alloted heritage"