In a recent article on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, Middle East negotiator under the Bush Administration Elliot Abrams tells us about the agreements reached between Israel and the United States. He was there. He negotiated the deal.
“In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The ‘Roadmap for Peace’ between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror.”
They came to a deal.
“In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: ‘It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.’ At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.
“The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally – including every single settlement and the ‘Philadelphi Strip’ separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.
“These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.”
Now Secretary of State Clinton says there was no deal. The Obama Administration chooses to go along with the no deal scenario and ignores what Abrams has said about the negotiations and agreement and the meaningful concessions Israel made and delivered on.
The Israeli account is that there was a deal. And that part and parcel of it was the withdrawal from certain settlements and a costly pull out from all of Gaza. That was the quid while the quo was the U.S. recognition that certain settlement blocs could remain as part of Israel and continue to grow internally without objection. (these settlements sit on about 4 percent of the land of the so called West Bank).
Was there a deal?
The two people who could clear this all up have not been heard from and Ariel Sharon remains in a coma in Israel and won’t be a pariticipant in this debate. George Bush though, is on his ranch in Texas and is silent. We don’t know why. And we have to ask, where is George?