A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president’s efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.
Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush’s letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush’s peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.
U.S. officials say no such agreement exists, and in recent months Rice has publicly criticized even settlement expansion on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Israel does not officially count as settlements. But as peace negotiations have stepped up in recent months, so has the pace of settlement construction, infuriating Palestinian officials, and Washington has taken no punitive action against Israel for its settlement efforts.
Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict U.S. policy.
Many experts say new settlement construction undermines the political standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — who is to meet with Bush today at the White House — and adds to Palestinian cynicism about the peace process. Palestinians view the settlements as an Israeli effort to claim Palestinian lands, and in a meeting yesterday with Rice, Abbas said settlement construction was “one of the greatest obstacles” to a peace deal… [emphasis added]
Inserted from <Washington Post>
Bush and the GOP have been caught dead to rights on this one. I cannot imagine Olmert making such an obscene claim were this not the truth. Olmert actually thinks this justifies new settlements on Palestinian land. It does not. Bush and the GOP do not represent the view of the people. They presented their peace plan to the world, while secretly undermining that plan behind the scenes. This exposes Bush and the GOP for exactly what they are, liars who speak of peace while they scheme for more war. They lied to the American people! They lied to the whole world!! Bush and every Repuglican in office must be replaced by people of good will who will support peace in the middle-east.