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Rewriting History

Elliott Abrams calls foul on Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Obama administration concerning Israeli settlements. He reviews the events of 2003 and 2004 and explains:

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.

As Abrams makes clear, the Obama administration’s denial that there was any real agreement between the U.S. and Israel is especially egregious in light of the basic historical context in which all of this occurred: Sharon was being asked to withdraw from Gaza, take on domestic critics, dismantle settlements. He was simply asking “for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.” If Clinton is hunting around for an “agreement” she might want to look up “detrimental reliance” from her Yale law school notes. We gave assurances, and Sharon acted upon them. That’s a “deal” in any sense of the word.

The Obama administration is now hounding Israel to make further concessions. But denying past agreements, in effect telling Israel it has no right to rely on the word of the U.S. government, is a peculiar way indeed to further a “peace process” which must rely on trust that all parties will keep their side of the bargain. Aside from the audacious effort to rewrite history, the Obama administration is conveying a singularly disturbing message: for the sake of currying favor with the “Muslim world,” as he described the multi-facted  players in the region, the United States is willing to renege on promises, publicly pressure Israel and try to extract unilateral concessions from Israel in the hope that the Palestinians will reciprocate in kind. But if the U.S. won’t keep it’s word, why should Israel expect any better from those who have continued to press for destruction of the Jewish state?

Perhaps Abrams’s candor on the subject will shame Clinton and her colleagues into a more accurate recollection of recent history. At the very least, Clinton should be required to address the factual record to which Abrams — and no doubt others — will attest.



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