Netanyahu needs Trump answer on Bush-Congress Commitments to Israel

February 1, 2017 by David Singer
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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will be meeting America’s President Trump on 15 February under very different circumstances to those when Netanyahu met President Obama on 20 May 2011…writes David Singer.President Obama had delivered a wide-ranging address on the Middle East just the day before when he dropped the following bombshell on his view of how negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority should proceed:

“The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  We believe 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.  The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.” 

Before boarding his plane for Washington Netanyahu said he:

“expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.”

Those 2004 commitments to Israel had been made by President Bush in a letter to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dated 14 April 2004 (“the Bush Commitments”).

Obama never obliged Netanyahu by reaffirming those Bush Commitments.

Netanyahu did not press Obama to do so – though he had opportunities during

  • Remarks by Obama and Netanyahu After their Bilateral Meeting
  • An address by Netanyahu to AIPAC on 23 May 2011
  • An emotion-charged speech Netanyahu gave to a joint sitting of the Congress on 24 May 2011

Netanyahu’s oversight in failing to mention the Bush Commitments in his Congress speech was a grievous error of judgement – since they had been endorsed in the House – 407 votes to 9 – and in the Senate – 95 votes to 3.

Those commitments – supporting Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza and part of the West Bank and marking real progress in realizing Bush’s Roadmap – included the following commitment:

“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. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”

Bush’s “mutually agreed changes” differed markedly from Obama’s “mutually agreed swaps”– which required Israel to swap some of its sovereign territory to gain sovereignty in any part of the West Bank.

Changes in the 1949 armistice lines could be made under the Bush Commitments without Israel having to make any such land swaps.

Obama had renounced and repudiated his predecessor’s commitment to Israel with this sneaky turn of phrase – adding insult to injury by demeaning and slapping Congress in the face for its enthusiastic and overwhelming endorsement of the Bush Commitments.

In his AIPAC address – Netanyahu made mention of Israel’s:

“terrific Ambassador to the United States, a man who knows a few things about the U.S.-Israel alliance, Michael Oren”

Michael Oren – now a Knesset member – made the following call on 5 January 2015:

“The time has come to revive Bush’s letter to Sharon and to act in accordance with it.”

As Netanyahu readies for his ground-breaking meeting with Trump he needs to heed Oren’s call and get a definitive answer this time from both Trump and the Congress.

Lightning can indeed strike twice in both the White House and Capitol Hill.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


2 Responses to “Netanyahu needs Trump answer on Bush-Congress Commitments to Israel”
  1. Roy Sims says:

    President Trump seems to have started his tenure with intent to honour his electioneering promises. That must auger well for Israel, since he appears to hold an opinion that Israel was poorly treated during the Obama years.
    Relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will be the clincher.
    Wasn’t that also part of the Bush plan all those years ago?
    When that happens, we will know that President Trump is truly a man of his word, and a man of unusual principle for a political leader.
    He may well be the “breath of fresh air” the political classes of the world has lacked for several decades.
    He is fearless in his condemnation of media dishonesty. He seems to have a good ‘handle’ on the sources of international terrorism. He is surrounding himself with an outspoken team of “fresh air” lieutenants.
    Bibi must be very encouraged about the potential outcome of his Feb 15 conversations in the U.S.
    I, for one, will be watching with great interest.

    • david singer says:


      Moving the US Embassy to Jeruslaem has been US law since 1995 and every President since then has made that pledge during his election campaign only to take the easy way out to postpone the move every six months claiming a Presidential waiver on the grounds of national security interests.

      Trump will find it much easier to restore the US-Israel alliance by reaffirming the Bush-Congress Commitments to Israel discussed in this article.

      The genesis of Israel’s deteriorating relationship with Obama can be traced to Obama jettisoning these commitments. The idea he could do so after they had been so overwhelmingly endorsed by the Congress was a major blow to the democratic process which requires Presidents to honour the commitments made by a former President.

      This is the “breath of fresh air” Israel needs.

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