Israel Can’t Be Blamed for Breaking an Agreement That the U.S. Already Discarded

March 24 2023

On Tuesday, the Knesset revoked a 2005 law forbidding Jews from living in a narrow slice of territory in the northern West Bank. The original law, most of which remains in effect, legitimized Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip as well as the forcible removal of four Israeli villages in Samaria. In response, a State Department spokesman condemned the legislation as inconsistent with prior understandings between the two countries. Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador, went further still, calling it “an egregious violation of a commitment to the United States.” Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu has clarified that his government has “no intention of building new communities in these areas”—a decision that is ultimately the prerogative of the cabinet rather than the parliament.

Whatever the prudence of the Knesset’s decision, Alan Baker and Lenny Ben-David explain that the complaints of Kurtzer and others are misplaced:

The new legislation would enable the return of the residents to their homes and properties after the implementation of requisite legal and security arrangements and the resolution of land ownership claims by Palestinians. The sites of [two of the evacuated towns], Ganim and Kadim, are reported to be now part of Jenin’s municipal boundaries in Area A [of the West Bank], effectively putting them off-limits to Israelis.

U.S. spokespersons and the former ambassador Kurtzer . . . appear to interpret this new legislation in an overly broad manner that does not necessarily reflect the actual substance of, or reasoning for, the legislation. They wrongly claim that the new legislation would facilitate “creating new settlements, building or legalizing outposts, or allowing the building of any kind on private Palestinian land or deep in the West Bank adjacent to Palestinian communities.” As such, they claim that the legislation contradicts previous undertakings by the Israeli government to the United States “to evacuate these settlements and outposts in the northern West Bank in order to stabilize the situation and reduce frictions.”

In fact, the 2004 unilateral and independent Israeli plan to evacuate those villages, even after implementation, failed in its stated purpose to secure and encourage a reduction in Palestinian hostility and violence, nor did it stabilize the political and economic situation as hoped.

Moreover, write Baker and Ben-David, the commitments cited by the Kurtzer and the State Department were made in a 2004 exchange of letters between then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then-President George W. Bush. As President Obama explicitly rejected these understandings in 2011, Israel can in no way be expected to abide by them.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Ariel Sharon, Gaza withdrawal, George W. Bush, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship, West Bank

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan