Some papers have been reporting for a couple of days that Israel is complaining that the new administration is going against previous agreements made with other administrations particularly G.W. Bush’s.
Today, the NY Times began to cover this story in earnest. The question is, if a former administration commits to something, is a future administration bound by the commitment. Obviously, if it isn’t, then no administration in the US can make commitments to any body or group, at least internationally, with any confidence that the US will adhere to that commitment several years later.
Dov Weissglas, who was a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an opinion article for Yediot Aharonot, a mass-selling newspaper, on Tuesday in which he laid out the agreements he said had been reached with Bush officials.
He said that in May 2003 he and Mr. Sharon met with Elliott Abrams and Stephen Hadley of the National Security Council and came up with the definition of settlement freeze as â€œno new communities were to be built; no Palestinian lands were to be appropriated for settlement purposes; building will not take place beyond the existing community outline; and no â€˜settlement encouraging’ budgets were to be allocated.â€
He said that Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, signed off on that definition later that month and that the two governments also agreed to set up a joint committee to define more fully the meaning of â€œexisting community outlineâ€ for existing settlements.
Moral of the story? Get it in writing.
Oh wait, they sort of did.
President Bush presented Mr. Sharon in April 2004 with a letter stating, â€œIn 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.â€ That, Mr. Weissglas said, was a result of his earlier negotiations with Bush officials acknowledging that certain settlement blocs would remain Israeli and open to continued growth.
There is also confirmation from at least one senior Bush official.
Mr. Abrams, the former Bush official who was part of those negotiations, wrote his own opinion article in The Washington Post and seemed to endorse the Israeli argument. He wrote, â€œFor the past five years, Israel’s government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the United States but never formally adopted: that there would be no new settlements, no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements and no new construction except in already built-up areas. The clear purpose of the guidelines? To allow for settlement growth in ways that minimized the impact on Palestinians.â€
Mr. Abrams acknowledged that even within those guidelines, Israel had not fully complied.
In other words, folks, the kindergarten kids got permission from the teacher to build Legos but the new teacher doesn’t want to abide by the old teacher’s rules and wants to take the Legos away because he thinks it’ll get Ahmad to stop trying to beat up Max since Max tends to kick Ahmad in the balls when he gets pissed off.
Okay, bad analogy, but it was fun to write.