US Ducks Promise to Israel

The US, which has insisted that the PA and Israel stand by previous commitments, refuses to say if it will honor Bush’s promise to Israel.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 3:22 PM

Bush and Obama: Is a letter a commitment?
Bush and Obama: Is a letter a commitment?
Israel News Photo: White House

The U.S. State Department Tuesday refused to state whether the Obama administration will honor a promise by the previous government that Israel will retain sovereignty over large Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria, in the event that a new Palestinian Authority state is created.


Then-President George W. Bush wrote former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, “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.”


Sylvie Lucas, President of the Economic and Social Council, charged that the refusal of the United States to state whether it is backing the commitment is problematic because “we are continually calling, for example, on the Palestinians – all factions of the Palestinians – to abide by the commitments that previous Palestinian governments have made. And yet you stand at that podium unwilling to declare whether or not the United States feels obligated to abide by the commitment that a previous United States government made.”


The question of whether U.S. President Barack Obama will honor the letter was raised at the State Department’s daily press briefing last week. Spokesman Ian Kelly replied, “That’s an excellent question…and I’ll get you the information on that.”


Spokesman Robert Wood dodged the issue Monday but was cornered on Tuesday by Lucas, who verbally sparred with him. [Questions and answers on the letter are located at 29 minutes after start of video.]

Wood repeatedly answered Lucas, “What I tried to say yesterday, and I’ll try and say it again today, is that we are working with the two parties to implement their Roadmap obligations….We’ve been extremely clear about that."

Pressed by Lucas, who asked, “So it means you are not bound by this letter?” Wood replied, “What I said, Sylvie, was we are working with the two sides to help them implement their Roadmap obligations.”


Lucas tried again: “Why don’t you want to say if you are bound or not? I don’t understand.”


Wood: “I’m saying what I’m saying.”


Lucas: Well, you are not answering.” As others at the session laughed out loud, she asked, “I don’t understand why you don’t want to say it.”


Wood insisted he could not be any clearer on the issue, to which Lucas answered, “What? Well, we must be stupid because we don’t understand. It’s a yes-or-no question, Robert. Is the Obama Administration bound by the contents of that letter or not? A yes or a no will suffice.”


The spokesman refused to budge and repeated, “Well, I’m giving you the answer that I’ve given you yesterday and today.”


He rejected Lucas’s charge that the U.S. is demanding from the PA to agree to previous commitments while the American government does not abide by the same rules. She did not mention that most conditions of past agreements have been carried out by Israel while several PA obligations, such as ending incitement and formally recognizing the State of Israel, have been skipped over.


“We’re demanding things from both sides,” Wood declared. “This is not an issue of what the United States needs to do. This is an issue about what the two sides need to do.”


Media commentators have reported that President Obama is morally bound but not legally bound to stand behind the letter from his predecessor.