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News Analysis: Bush Policy Pushes Israel Back to 1949 Armistice

When challenged about his disengagement plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon consistently retorts that his concessions earned historic achievements in the form of the Bush letter of April, 2004.
First Publish: 5/29/2005, 3:14 PM / Last Update: 5/29/2005, 5:18 PM

Sharon argues that the disengagement plan cemented US support for retaining large blocks of Israeli towns in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria.

For example, on April 18th, 2004 Sharon declared in the Knesset:
"…whoever wants to maintain large settlement blocs under our control forever; whoever wants to guarantee that for as long as the Palestinians don't act against terrorism, diplomatic pressures will not be exerted upon us... must support the disengagement plan."
Sharon further said:
"The diplomatic support we received during my visit to the U.S. is an unprecedented achievement. Never since the establishment of the State have we received such support with such strength and comprehension. The Palestinians see the Bush letter as the strongest blow they have received since [our] War of Independence."
In light of the May 26th Bush-Abbas summit and the subsequent statements, Arutz Sheva presents the following analysis of what is left of Sharon's unprecedented gains:

U.S. President George W. Bush’s statement welcoming PA leader Mahmoud Abbas into the White House Rose Garden on May 26, provided a highly transparent view of the administration’s policy toward Israel and an unsettling perspective on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s claims that Bush has agreed to allow Israel to retain large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria.

The most unsettling, if not shocking remark by the president was a direct reference to the 1949 “Armistice lines” agreed to by Israel and Jordan at the end of the War of Independence. Those lines, the famous “Auschwitz borders” as they were called by the late Israeli Labor-party statesman Abba Eban, leaves Israel’s heavily populated coastal plain, just 9-11 miles from the border of what would be Palestine.

Not only are none of the major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria, such as Ma’ale Adumim included in those borders, but neither are the Western Wall, the Old City of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot, Gilo, Neve Yaakov, East Talpiot, Pisgat Ze’ev (to name a few), nor the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway (Route 1) as it crosses into the Latrun area.

Yet President Bush, standing next to the man whom he would like to become the first president of Palestine, told Abbas and the rest of the world, that the reference point for negotiating the future boundary between the two states was the 1949 lines, and that any change to that border “must be mutually agreed to” between Israel and the Arabs.

In other words, as far as Bush is concerned, Abbas must approve Israel's annexing the Western Wall or even part of the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem highway to the Jewish State. Conversely, without his agreement, those areas are slated to be part of an independent State of Palestine.

Where then, is the great quid-pro-quo for the Gaza withdrawal, the highly-touted and heavily-marketed Bush promises to Sharon that the U.S. recognizes the facts on the ground in Judea and Samaria, the settlement blocs that preclude a withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice lines?

According to Yoram Ettinger, a consultant on U.S. Israel relations and former liaison for Congressional affairs in the Israel Washington embassy, Bush’s April, 2004 letter supposedly guaranteeing U.S. support for retaining major settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria “was grossly misrepresented by the Prime Minister and his spokesman. Bush has not committed the United States to recognizing anything beyond the 1949 cease-fire lines. Bush doesn’t recognize any single settlement or blocs of settlements.”

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak concurs with this analysis of Bush’s view of the future border between Israel and a Palestinian state. In a recent interview for Haaretz, Barak said:

“A campaign is under way here whose gist is to mislead the nation about substantive issues in order to prevent it from asking what the quid pro quo for the disengagement is. Sharon’s claim that he made painful decisions in Gaza and in return obtained an unprecedented achievement in Judea and Samaria is not correct…

“After all, it is obvious that the U.S. administration is against the Ariel-Kedumim bloc and against Ma’ale Adumim and is even against Efrat [locataed in the Gush Etzion bloc]…Sharon is not telling the people the truth. He is treating us all as though we are infantile and incapable of debating our own fate.”

It is not surprising therefore, that Bush, instead of emphasizing the importance of Abbas fighting terror and keeping his obligations under the road map, focused mostly on Israel’s roadmap obligations, primarily to halt all settlement construction in Judea and Samaria and remove what he called, “unauthorized outposts.”

George W. Bush is a president who means what he says. After mentioning the 1949 lines, Bush said the following: “A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.”

Territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria for a viable Palestinian State is not a prescription for accepting settlement blocs anywhere.

It’s about time the Israeli public recognizes that the “Bush vision” as expressed repeatedly by the President and his Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, does not include any territory east of the 1949 lines. Rather, it holds the disengagement plan as the first phase of an ongoing process of Israeli withdrawals back to what the Labor party leader termed "the Auschwitz borders."