The US understands that mutually agreed land swaps will have something to do with recognizing changes on the ground that have happened since 1967, but those issues have to be negotiated between the parties, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
Shapiro, speaking after addressing the Post’s first annual Diplomatic Conference in Herzliya, was referring to Israel’s announcement of further planning in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim and whether that was not part of the settlement blocks that US President George Bush implied in his 2004 letter to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon would remain a part of Israel in any agreement.
“Those issues have to be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
“Nobody else from the outside can draw that map, and that is why we need to get those negotiations going, so those issues will be decided at the negotiating table between the parties, and not by unilateral measures.”
Shapiro said that in wake of the recent Gaza crisis, and as Israel gears up for its elections on January 22, he was not aware of any move by the Palestinians to return to negotiations now.
“As soon as the parties are ready, President Obama is ready to be a full partner,” he said.
Asked what makes E1 different, Shapiro said it is a “very sensitive area” that has been identified by many as an area “that could be damaging to prospects of achieving a territorial compromise for a two state solution with a meaningful, viable, contiguous Palestinian entity in the West Bank.”
Although Shapiro said he realized that Israel only announced planning in E1, and planning can be stopped, “those announcements have a political impact.”
The US ambassador said in his comments to the conference that the November 29 UN vote upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state was “unfortunate and counterproductive.”
He said the US opposed that step not because it opposed a Palestinian desire for statehood, “but because we feel this will work against that very goal.”
Regarding Operation Pillar of Defense, Shapiro said he was proud “as an American and US ambassador” of the US effort to support Israel when under attack, and to de-escalate the crisis “in a way that has brought quiet to the south for the first time in many months.”
Shapiro said that Washington’s clear, strong and unequivocal statements affirming Israel’s right to defend itself – made by Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ambassador to the UN Susan Rice – were “critical in shaping international perceptions of the crisis, and in securing the support of other countries and keeping the support where it should be – on the rocket fire from Gaza.”
Shapiro described the US-Israel coordination during the crisis as “extremely close,” and said that not only did Obama speak repeatedly with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but Clinton placed numerous calls with her counterparts around the world – even while on a Far East tour – to drum up support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The US support for Israel during the crisis was not only diplomatic, Shapiro said, mentioning the Iron Dome missile Defense system and Washington’s recent allocation of $275 million to accelerate the development and deployment of the system.
Speaking of Iron Dome, Shapiro said that “if there is a more gainful example of America’s commitment to Israel security, I don’t know what it is.”
“Allies look out for each other’s interest,” Shapiro said.
“That has – and will continue – to define the US approach to this [the Israeli-US] relationship.”