In his April 6 speech to the Turkish parliament, President Obama declared that both Israelis and Palestinians “must live up to the commitments they have made” regarding the goal they agreed to in the Roadmap and at Annapolis. But it is not only the Israelis and Palestinians who have made commitments. The United States has incurred obligations in connection with that process as well.
In the 2004 letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Sharon, the U.S. committed itself to “defensible borders” for Israel, and that commitment was reiterated in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United States and Israel on January 16, 2009. It is unlikely that any responsible military person, in either Israel or the United States, believes the 1967 borders are “defensible borders.”
Second, the U.S. committed itself in the Bush letter (which was endorsed by Congress in Concurrent Resolution 460) to Israel’s ability to “defend itself, by itself,” and that commitment was also recognized again in the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding. The phrase is a coded but clear reference to protecting Israel’s ultimate deterrent capability.
Third, the U.S. committed itself to the “Performance-Based Roadmap” as the sole peace plan. That commitment is particularly clear if one refers not only to the Bush letter, but to the Sharon letter it answered. Sharon insisted the Roadmap was “the sole means” to make progress and that the peace process had to be “anchored exclusively” in it. He was concerned that, absent a U.S. commitment to the three-phase Roadmap, a different plan could be forced on Israel by the U.S. or the international community. The Bush letter promised the U.S. would do its utmost to “prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan” (emphasis added).
Annapolis was a failed attempt to “accelerate” the Roadmap by going straight to final-status negotiations, with any agreement to be “subject to” the Roadmap. The Annapolis commitment was to attempt to reach such an agreement within a year, and that commitment expired by its terms at the end of 2008, when the parties failed. Any attempt to jump-start final status negotiations now will simply set the parties up for failure again.
A realistic appraisal of the “peace process” must recognize the Palestinians have now rejected a state six times in the last eight years: in 2000 at Camp David; in 2001 with their rejection of the Clinton Parameters; in 2003 with their refusal to implement Phase I of the Roadmap; in 2005 when they received all of Gaza to show they could live side by side in peace, and turned it into a staging area for rockets and tunnels into Israel; in 2006 when they elected a terrorist government dedicated to Israel’s destruction; and in 2008 when they rejected Olmert’s plea to accept his last best offer in the Annapolis process.
At this point, it is more than the Palestinians “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” A second state is not the opportunity they seek – not if it requires recognizing a Jewish one with defensible borders. But the U.S. has committed itself to Israel with respect to its borders and defense, and to the nature of the process going forward, and the U.S. “must live up to the commitments it has made.”