Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech has created expectations that he will match Marco Rubio’s pledge to stand by the commitments made by President Bush to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Bush’s letter dated 14 April 2004.
Rubio made his unequivocal pledge on 3 December 2015 at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum during his unsuccessful race to secure the Republican Party’s endorsement as its Presidential nominee:
“I will revive the common-sense understandings reached in the 2004 Bush-Sharon letter and build on them to help ensure Israel has defensible borders”
President Obama and his then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did everything in their power to wriggle out of those Bush commitments – despite their having been overwhelmingly endorsed by the Senate 95-3 on 23 June 2004 and by the House of Representatives 407-9 on 24 June 2004.
Trump clearly had Obama and Clinton’s betrayal of Israel in his sights – when stating:
“… your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them. You’ve made that agreement, you have to stand by it and the world will be a better place.”
The Bush-Congress endorsed commitments made in that 2004 letter undoubtedly represent such an agreement.
President Bush’s letter acknowledged the risks Israel’s proposed unilateral disengagement from Gaza represented - and assured Israel that America:
Would do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan other than the Roadmap envisioned by President Bush on 24 June 2002.Would maintain its steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders,Was strongly committed to Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state.Understood that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement would need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.Accepted as part of a final peace settlement that Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.Acknowledged that in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it would be unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations would be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, that all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution had reached the same conclusion
Sharon’s successor - Ehud Olmert - had neither forgotten nor overlooked the critical significance of Bush’s commitments when agreeing to resume negotiations with the Palestinian Authority - telling an international audience of world leaders at Annapolis on 27 November 2007:
“The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the road map and the April 14, 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”
Israel had since its disengagement been subjected to a sustained barrage of thousands of rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately into Israeli population centres from Gaza by a bewildering variety of terrorist groups and sub-groups who would have had no chance of operating so freely from Gaza if the Israeli Army had remained there.
President Obama’s attempt to disavow Bush’s commitments was first orchestrated by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - as this report on 6 June 2009 disclosed:
“Since coming to office in January, President Barack Obama has repeatedly called on Israel to halt all settlement activity in Palestinian areas, a demand rejected by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israelis say they received commitments from the previous US administration of President George W. Bush permitting some growth in existing settlements.
They say the US position was laid out in a 2004 letter from Bush to then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.”
Clinton rejected that claim, saying any such US stance was informal and
"did not become part of the official position of the United States government."
Clinton – doubling again as Obama’s attack dog – made Obama’s intentions clearer on 25 November 2009:
“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”
Bush’s letter never mentioned “agreed swaps” – signalling trouble for Israel if Obama himself were to confirm Clinton’s latest statement.
Eighteen months later Israel’s worst fears were realised when Obama declared on 19 May 2011:
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
Michael Oren – Israel’s Ambassador to Washington between 2009 and 2013 – called for Bush’s commitments to be resuscitated on 15 January 2015:
"... it’s time to revive the Bush-Sharon letter and act according to it.”
Others are making similar demands.
Trump is responding with his clearly articulated message.
Keep agreements made with your allies – don’t ditch them. Loyalty will always trump expediency.
Obama and Clinton’s shameful betrayal of Israel in this sordid affair seems set to be targeted by Trump.