Legal group to Kerry: Pre-1967 lines as basis for talks contravenes US commitments

Legal Forum for Israel says any US guarantee over borders violates US promise given to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.

IDF tanks and a flag on the Gaza border 370 (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
IDF tanks and a flag on the Gaza border 370
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Any US guarantee to the Palestinians that the upcoming negotiations with Israel will be based on the pre-1967 lines would be a violation of written US commitments given to then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker wrote in a letter sent this week to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Baker wrote the letter on behalf of the Legal Forum for Israel, along with another attorney with the group, Yossi Fuchs. The forum, formerly called the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, was set up in the wake of the Gaza withdrawal to promote the rights of the evacuees.
The group quotes from US president George W. Bush’s letter to Sharon on April 4, 2004, which it said was given as a political quid pro quo, in return for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
According to that letter, “As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of the 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.”
These commitments were later affirmed by a large majority of the US House of Representatives, and – as Baker and Fuchs wrote to Kerry – was “also given legal affirmation as part of an Israeli governmental decision and attached to the disengagement implementation law of October 27, 2004.”
The letter, however, has since been the source of contention, with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton distancing the Obama administration from its commitments.
In June 2009 she said, “In looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements.
That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility.”
But Elliott Abrams, who handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2008 and was involved in drafting the letter, disputed Clinton’s interpretation in an opinion piece that appeared in 2009 in The Wall Street Journal.
“These statements are incorrect,” Abrams said of Clinton’s remarks. “Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation – the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank.”
Baker and Fuchs wrote that “we would assume, and expect the US administration to uphold this presidential commitment without any reservation or change.”
In addition, they wrote, “In the various documents comprising the ‘Oslo Accords’ (1993-99) the PLO and Israel agreed to conduct negotiations on the issue of ‘borders.’ The term “pre-1967 lines” has never been a factor in these agreements, nor has it figured in other accompanying documentation such as the 2003 US sponsored ‘Performance- Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.’”