June 12: Too hasty on Bush letter

For over 200 years, American presidents have conducted foreign policy by executive agreements.

letters thumb (photo credit: )
letters thumb
(photo credit: )
Too hasty onBush letter Sir, - Ken Kalcheim is too quick to tell us that president Bush's 2004 letter to prime minister Sharon regarding settlement blocs is not binding because it was not ratified by the US Senate. It is true that the US Constitution requires approval of two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty. But, in addition to treaties, for over 200 years American presidents have conducted foreign policy by executive agreements, which are generally an exchange of commitments between the president or his agent and the head of state of another country, or his agent. The Litvinov Agreement signed in 1933 by FDR and the Russian commissar for foreign affairs is an example, providing for US recognition of the Soviet Union in exchange for the assignment to the US of all claims by Russia against US citizens. It was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1942, holding that it had the same binding effect as a treaty. Executive agreements have become an essential tool of US foreign policy. In fact, since the 1960s, each year has seen, on average, 250 executive agreements, compared to 30 treaties. Ariel Sharon's undertaking to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in exchange for the commitments in the Bush letter constituted an executive agreement. We have every right to continue to rely on those assurances, and should be shocked that the Obama administration appears to have disavowed them. While the president can renege on US commitments, whether made by treaty or by executive agreement, his doing so would call into question this administration's repeated statements that it intends to abide by international law ("What matters," Letters, June 8). JAN SOKOLOVSKY Jerusalem Tooth and nail Sir, - Current events have caused me to recall a letter I had published in The Jerusalem Post of June 1, 1976. This is what it said: "I was present at a luncheon in honor of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, former US chief of Naval Operations, and in answer to the question 'How should Israel react in view of the purpose of the Arabs to eliminate the Jewish state... does it make sense for Israel to weaken herself by withdrawals?' his reply was an attack on Henry Kissinger's general policy in theMiddle East. "As noted in the The Times of London, he urged Israel 'to hang on tooth and nail to every square inch of territory.' "I find it imponderable that such a positive and forthright statement has come from a Christian American military expert, and not from the entire Israeli leadership." BARBARA OBERMAN Herzliya Pituah One might expect Sir, - I suppose it would not be unreasonable for George Mitchell to suggest to Mahmoud Abbas that he publicly acknowledge that he no longer denies the Holocaust ("Israel fumes as Abbas uses Washington visit to undermine PM," May 31). RAYMOND CANNON Netanya Just homes Sir, - As an avid reader of Letters to the Editor, I recently decided that we letter writers and you newspaper reporters have to change. The word "settlements" has got to go. These places are towns, suburbs and villages and not anything to discuss in terrible tones and words. They are the homes of your fellow Jews. No one has the right to tell you where to live, how many children to have, and whether your married children should live near you or not ("Israel tells Mitchell it won't halt natural growth in settlements," June 10). MADALYN SCHAEFFER Jerusalem