The Obama administration made clear to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting last week that the U.S. foresees the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, according to a top PA official speaking to this column.
“The American administration was very friendly to the position of the PA,” said Nimer Hamad, Abbas’s senior political adviser.
“Abu Mazen heard from Obama and his administration in a very categorical way that a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is in the American national and security interest,” Hamad said.
Another PA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WorldNetDaily that Obama informed Abbas he would not let Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “get in the way” of normalizing U.S. relations with the Arab and greater Muslim world.
“We were told from this new administration they will not allow a Netanyahu government to hurt their efforts of rehabilitating U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic world, which is a high priority of Obama,” the official said, speaking during a visit to Cairo.
Hamad’s comments about Jerusalem come as controversy abounds regarding the U.S. position on Israel’s capital city.
Last week, after Netanyahu delivered a speech in which he said Jerusalem will never be divided, the State Department released a statement that Jerusalem “is a final status issue.”
Obama May Renege On Bush Pledges
Jerusalem officials are concerned the Obama administration intends to abrogate written pledges made by President Bush by which Israel would keep main West Bank settlement blocs in a future deal with the Palestinians.
Real estate in the West Bank is key. The strategic territory borders Jerusalem; Israel’s central population centers are within rocket-range.
“It seems the understandings reached with Bush are being shelved. We have good reason to fear that Obama doesn’t intend to honor them,” said a source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
In 2004 Bush said the Jewish state would not need to evacuate the entire West Bank. The statement was provided in response to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s announcement of plans to evacuate the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank Jewish communities. Bush’s pledge was used by Sharon on several occasions to show he was receiving political and security capital from the U.S. in exchange for Israel’s retreat from Gaza.
In 2005 Sharon and Bush also reached a secret deal whereby Israel could provide for the “natural growth” of West Bank settlements, i.e., adding housing to current communities in the territory to account for growth in population. That deal demonstrated a further U.S. commitment to Israel’s retaining main settlement blocs.
This column reported last weekthat the Obama administration wanted to abrogate the 2005 deal on natural growth, according to sources in Netanyahu’s office. Now, Jerusalem officials are concerned Obama may also be looking to backtrack on Bush’s 2004 letter indicating Israel can keep main settlement blocs.
Obama To Netanyahu:
Start Where Olmert Left Off
While Obama reportedly is looking to get out of a deal agreed to by his predecessor, the president seems to expect Netanyahu to stand by concessions made to the Palestinians under his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.
According to sources in Netanyahu’s camp, Obama communicated in his meeting with Netanyahu two weeks ago that he expects Israeli talks with the Palestinians to begin where negotiations were left off during talks led by Olmert. According to multiple reports, Olmert offered the Palestinians a state in much of the West Bank and peripheral sections of eastern Jerusalem.
WorldNetDaily broke the story in Novemberthat Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had collected notes and documents from Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams to ensure Obama’s team would not begin negotiations from scratch. Rice’s State Department assembled the notes concerning issues on which both sides were close to an agreement, according to informed Israeli and Palestinian sources.
While Olmert’s non-finalized decisions during negotiations are not binding on the next prime minister, documents noting agreements during previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been used at times as starting points in subsequent talks.