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"The Bush Letter" is U.S. Policy

JINSA Report #: 

July 5, 2010

As Prime Minister Netanyahu arrives for his 5th set of meetings with President Obama, the headline in one newspaper is, "Obama mum on Bush's borders for Israel," noting, "The White House has declined to publicly affirm commitments made by President Bush to Israel in 2004 on the final borders of the Jewish state."

Two points: In the April 2004 letter President Bush defines no borders for Israel; and the House and Senate passed concurrent resolutions adopting the President's formulation of the requirements of security for both Israel and the Palestinians.

The "borders" paragraph in the Bush letter reads:

As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. 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.

This puts a lie to the idea floating in the current administration that "everyone knows" what a "two-state solution" would look like and therefore the missing ingredient must be presidential pressure to make it happen - pressure on Israel, as it happens.

The Bush Administration clearly understood that the borders of the two states would NOT look like the 1949 armistice lines (the so-called "Green line" and never the "1967 borders"), and referred back to UNSC Resolution 242 which called for Israel to receive, "Secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." There was wisdom in the formulation, "Any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

And far from being the work of a single man, or single administration, Congress took up the Bush letter in June 2004, passing H. Con. Res. 460 by vast margins in both Houses by both parties:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress--
1. strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which will strengthen the security and well-being of the State of Israel; and
2. supports continuing efforts with others in the international community to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat to the security of Israel.

If an allied, democratic government cannot rely on continuity in the word of an American President for policy specifically supported and endorsed by the Congress of the United States, on what can that - or any other - government rely?

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