IMRA contacted Attorney Dov Weisglass, who served as Chief of the Prime Minister's Bureau during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s administration, asking why the settlement construction maps that were supposed to be prepared along with US Ambassador Kurtzer a few days after April 14, 2004 were never drawn up.
In a conversation this evening, Dov Weisglass told IMRA that back on 30 April 2003 Israel and the Bush Administration agreed to the principle that settlement construction would be limited to within the construction line of the settlements.
The two sides started to take practical measures and an American team together with an Israeli team started to go over aerial photos and it turned out that there were a lot of difficulties coming up with the edge of the construction. As a result of this to the process was held up.
In the meantime, Weisglass explain, we reached the end of 2003 start of 2004 and we started talking about the Disengagement and the work on the construction line was delayed.
This matter came to a head with the April 14, 2004 exchange of letters in Washington that included:
Dr. Condoleezza Rice
National Security Adviser
The White House
Dear Dr. Rice,
On behalf of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Ariel Sharon, I
wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached
1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of
settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. An Israeli team, in conjunction with Ambassador Kurtzer, will review aerial photos of settlements and will jointly define the construction line of each of the settlements.
Chief of the Prime Minister's Bureau
After that the teams returned to work but a difference in principle arose between Ambassador Kurtzer and the Israelis regarding which settlements would be included in the process.
We wanted, Weisglass noted, to start from East to West and not deal with the large settlement blocs as we explained to the Americans that it was silly to include them and put limits on development there as we already have a letter (Bush April 14, 2004 letter to Sharon: "... In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers...It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.") showing that we see eye to eye on the large settlement blocs
As the situation was sensitive and pressure great the question of belief of the promise in the Bush letter about the large settlement blocs was important for the belief of the public in the Disengagement.
We thought that the letter would even gain us support from settlers living in the large settlement blocs.
So it was important to have public see that we have US support for the large settlement blocs and this would have been questioned if at the same time we would have an issue with construction in the large settlement blocs.
So we wanted to put off this matter
A large US team that was to come was cancelled – this was around Jewish New Years September/October 2004. The formal excuse was the because of Jewish New Years it was difficult to coordinate the visit of part of the delegation that included Elliot Abrams.
The visit was cancelled and never renewed.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis