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Jerusalem — Daniel Kurtzer, who was U.S. ambassador to Israel in 2004, was the official to whom Weissglass promised Rice he would submit a list of unauthorized outposts, with dates for removal, within 30 days. But Israel never “produced even the data on which we were supposed to work,” Kurtzer wrote in an article published last year in The American Interest, a bi-monthly journal. “And in any event, Washington (and Jerusalem, presumably) lost its appetite for the whole exercise.”
Today, the United States says its position on Migron in the context of Israel’s commitments remains unchanged. “Regarding outposts, our view reflects the relevant provision of the Road Map, which calls on Israel to ‘immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001,’” State Department spokesman Ambrose Sayles told the Forward in a March 14 email.
Regev, the prime minister’s spokesman, countered that the Palestinians had not lived up to their commitments under the Road Map. “I think there’s a problem when you have one side that is not standing by its commitments.” Specifically, he said, the Palestinian side has not done enough to end violence against Israel.
But that assertion has been challenged by senior military commanders who have testified before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. An August 2011 draft report produced by the panel concluded, “There is comprehensive security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians, and we have seen a positive change in the security situation as well as enforcement of law and order.”
Further, while Sharon made his agreement to the Road Map contingent on a number of requirements being fulfilled first by the Palestinians, he made no such condition in his commitment to Bush regarding the outposts.
Indeed, with its new Migron agreement, the Netanyahu government appears to be flouting two of Sharon’s promises to Bush and the Road Map.
One, the agreement delays evacuation of Migron for three-and-a-half years, meaning that settlers will continue to live there, but now with de-facto authorization from the government.
Two, a new settlement nearby is to be built to accommodate the settlers after the evacuation, contradicting the Road Map’s ban on new settlement building and Sharon’s promise to Bush to limit settlement growth.
Of this, Sayles, the State Department spokesman, said, “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.”
Regev insists that the Israeli government faces no loss of international credibility due to the continued existence of outposts. “I think people in the know know that the current Israeli government has shown more restraint on the issue of settlements than any previous government,” he said.
For some, it is no less important that the government’s deal with the residents of Migron also defies a ruling of Israel’s Supreme Court, which found that the outpost was built on private Palestinian land and required its dismantlement by March 31.
Michael Sfard, an attorney for Peace Now who represents four of the Palestinian landowners on whose land the court found Migron was built, said that his clients’ interests have been marginalized. “They have no voice in the corridors of Israeli power, and they were not even contacted while the government negotiated with the settlers,” he said. “They were not surprised. I was appalled.”
But his most serious accusation is that with its deal with settlers, the government undermines the authority of the Supreme Court. “To some extent I am the Israeli judiciary’s salesman among Palestinians — I convinced them that we have an independent court that rules according to the law and that it must protect their rights,” he said.
“When we won in court they were the first to raise doubts on whether the decision would be implemented and I tried to explain that with all its faults the Israeli legal culture would not allow the government to circumvent a Supreme Court final ruling. I was wrong, my clients were right.”
Contact Nathan Jeffay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional reporting by Nathan Guttman and Larry Cohler-Esses.