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Palestine - will Sharon's legacy be Obama's downfall?

By David Singer - posted Thursday, 10 September 2009

Israel’s former Prime Minister - Ariel Sharon - has been in a coma since January 4 2006 but his legacy hangs like a heavy cloud over the plans of President Obama to oversee the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly have a lot on their minds as they grapple with a multitude of the world's current conflicts which - no doubt - have caused massive overloading of their respective memory banks.

Yet this would be a lame excuse for them forgetting about - or seeking to minimise the existence and crucial importance of the letters exchanged on April 14, 2004 between President Bush and Israel's then Prime Minister - Ariel Sharon.


This correspondence enabled courageous and highly dangerous decisions being taken by Israel to kick start President Bush's stalled 2003 Road Map - which had been enthusiastically endorsed by Russia, the European Union and the United Nations as the key to resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict by 2005.

The President's letter provided the catalyst - and the political justification - for Israel unilaterally evacuating the entire Jewish population of 8,000 from Gaza and withdrawing Israel's army totally from there without any preconditions or undertakings being given or sought from the Palestinian Authority.

The Presidential letter set out in detail the framework that President Bush would support as Israel attempted to progress his Road Map towards the creation of this new Arab State between Israel and Jordan for the first time ever in recorded history.

President Bush's letter clearly - and unambiguously - assured Israel that:

  1. the borders of this new Arab State would not encompass the entire West Bank despite successive Arab leaders having demanded this outcome for the previous 37 years;
  2. Jewish towns and villages in the West Bank would be incorporated into the borders of Israel;
  3. the Arabs would have to forego their demand to be given the right to allow millions of Arabs to emigrate to Israel; and
  4. Israel's existence as a Jewish State would be non-negotiable.

Jerusalem Post Editor David Horovitz joined a group of Israeli journalists who met with President Bush in the Oval Office prior to the President's visit to Israel to take part in its 60th Anniversary celebrations in May 2008.


In his editorial, published on May 14, 2008, Mr Horovitz revealed the extent of the American loss of memory - even at that time - concerning the President's 2004 letter in the following terms:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, has been known to minimize the significance of this four-year-old letter. Just last week, for instance, she told reporters that the 2004 letter talked about realities at that time. And there are realities for both sides ...

Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has also given briefings to the effect that Israel had tried to overstate the importance of a rather vague letter, which was issued at a time when Sharon was seeking to bolster support for the pullout from Gaza.

And in answering my question, Bush did not at first even realize that I was referring to the 2004 letter. Hadley, who was also in the Oval Office, had to prompt him. "Okay, the letters," the president then said, remembering.

This was not simply memory loss but something far worse and more sinister. An attempt was being made - even in 2008 - to downplay America’s clear and unequivocal commitments given to Israel as the price for Israel’s total evacuation of Gaza.

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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