Thursday, February 05, 2009

Obama: Bush in Changed Clothes?

Inspired by Mondoweiss

This video refers to the exchange of letters between President Bush and Ariel Sharon in 2004. Sharon went to DC to win concessions from the White House in preparation for the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. More than just getting some new aid, Sharon came home with a written US endorsement of the occupation. Bush's letter stated:

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, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

This paragraph in effect changed stated US policy. Whereas before this letter the US was still calling in theory for Israel to leave the occupied territories as part of a two-state solution, the Bush administration was now saying that parts of the occupation should be permanent. In case you think this was just done without anyone noticing, the Senate voted two months later to affirm this policy change by a vote of 95-5.

Fast forward to 2008 when the Bush administration was finally trying to get more engaged in peacemaking efforts through the Annapolis peace conference. The US quickly found out that the 2004 letter was a huge obstacle. Writing in the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler's April 24, 2008 article "Israelis Claim Secret Agreement With U.S." explained,

A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president's efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush's letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush's peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered his perspective:

"It was clear from day one to Abbas, Rice and Bush that construction would continue in population concentrations -- the areas mentioned in Bush's 2004 letter," Olmert declared in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, published Sunday. "I say this again today: Beitar Illit will be built, Gush Etzion will be built; there will be construction in Pisgat Ze'ev and in the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem," referring to new settlement expansion plans. "It's clear that these areas will remain under Israeli control in any future settlement."

Over time this understanding came to include the Jordan Valley as a security buffer, the Israeli-only roads that connect the settlements to Israel and the land Israel all but annexed by building the separation wall.

Some had hoped that an Obama administration, wanting to abandon failed Bush policies and engage in Israel/Palestine from the beginning, would undo this disastrous position. Think again. From the Nation:
The portents of this disarray, however, were there from the 1993 start, as I duly noted in The Nation (September 20, 1993). Labor and Likud leaders alike made no secret of the fact that Oslo was designed to segregate the Palestinians in noncontiguous, economically unviable enclaves, surrounded by Israeli-controlled borders, with settlements and settlement roads punctuating and essentially violating the territories' integrity.

From watching the map in this video it looks like mission accomplished. The similarities between the South African and Israel/Palestine maps are striking.

It is clear that the map in the video can never lead to an end of the conflict. Unless the Obama administration abandons the Clinton and Bush policies that led to the map above, there is no doubt the two-state solution is dead. The new question becomes - what replaces it?
(Adam Horowitz)


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