There’s really no topic I’m following with more interest at the moment than the back and forth between the Netanyahu government and the Obama White House over the issue of settlements. Netanyahu’s advisers now seem to be pushing the line that Prime Minister Sharon had understandings with President Bush that on-going settlement building was fine within areas already designated for settlement growth and that, at least implicitly, a broad swath of settlements the US now accepts as permanent.
This is an iffy argument on a number of levels — not least of which is that such an agreement would conflict with the ‘Road Map’, which would have a higher standing than a bilateral agreement reached by the US and Israel. More to the point, though, while governments generally put a lot of weight on honoring understandings of predecessors, the Bush ‘letter’ wasn’t a treaty or even a formal bilateral agreement. So I don’t think it has any force at all — setting aside that it conflicts with the Road Map.
More generally, as I said, I’m extremely interested to see how this develops. And we’re also interested as an organization. And this is a question that’s all going to be in the murmurs and nuances, in terms of seeing how the jousting between the two governments evolves. So if and when you see new details in articles you read, please send them along to me.
Late Update: A key part of this equation is what happens in Congress — particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle. There have been signs that AIPAC has been having its usual level of success getting members of Congress to sign letters to the president, and so forth. But I’ve been more interested to see indications that when Netanyahu’s intermediaries have gone to members of Congress to sound out what they’re willing to do to push back against the emerging policy, that they have not been hearing what they’d like to hear. TPM Reader LR just sent me this post by James Besser at The Jewish Week that looks more deeply into this part of the settlements equation.