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Friday, May 07, 2004

PoliticoDiploBabble or Appeasement?

New York Times: . . . administration officials have struggled in the past week to try to answer Jordan's deep concern, shared by other Arab nations, over a letter last month from Mr. Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. That letter, intended to help Mr. Sharon win support at home for his plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, endorsed Israel's position that it would not return to pre-1967 borders or accept the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendents in any final settlement.

But now, after Mr. Sharon's Likud Party voted against this "disengagement" plan, some administration officials are wondering what Mr. Bush's letter accomplished, beyond infuriating American allies throughout the Arab world, where anti-American passions are already high because of Iraq. One result was King Abdullah's abrupt postponement of his meeting with Mr. Bush, which had been scheduled for late April.

The administration has stated repeatedly that Mr. Bush's endorsement of Israeli objectives does not amount to a prejudgment of a negotiated final settlement.

On Thursday, Mr. Bush said that "as I have previously stated, all final status issues must be negotiated" and that the United States "will not prejudice the outcome of those negotiations."

Arab, European and United Nations officials have accepted that statement, but with a certain skepticism, if not outright cynicism. They assert that Mr. Bush's letter to Mr. Sharon could not help but "prejudice the outcome" because that was its purpose.

Nevertheless, American officials and their negotiating partners feel that the newest statements will at least assure angry Arabs, in the long diplomatic tradition of statements contradicting each other while claiming they do not.

The letter to Mr. Sharon created a special problem in recent weeks for King Abdullah, who, according to administration officials, responded by demanding a letter of his own from Mr. Bush.

Ideally, the king's aides had suggested, the letter could have said that any land or homes awarded to Israel in a final settlement be compensated with land or cash to Palestinians.

No such assurance was forthcoming on Thursday, however.

Instead, Mr. Bush noted that the king "had some suggestions about how to explain our position to the Palestinians, and I appreciated your advice, Your Majesty."

He added that he would "shortly send" to Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister "a letter that will explain my views."

Administration officials said the drafting of this letter could reopen some internal disputes among Mr. Bush's advisers, some of whom were uneasy about the Sharon letter and favored a strong effort to reassure the Palestinians of American intentions.

It was also striking, diplomats said, that Mr. Bush promised to send the letter to Mr. Qurei, commonly know as Abu Ala, even though the administration has basically endorsed Israel's view that the Palestinian has no power and is being told what to do by Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

"If Abu Ala is powerless, why is the United States sending him a letter?" asked one diplomat close to the Middle East peace negotiations.
See also the Washington Post about Condoleezza Rice's upcoming meeting with Abu Ala -- planned for next week in Eurabiarope.

Abdullah is terrified of getting stuck with the Palestinians
Reuters: Jordan, which has hosted successive waves of Palestinian refugees since the creation of Israel in 1948, fears the rejection of the right of refugees to return will pave the way for their permanent integration in the kingdom. The majority [Ed.- two thirds] of Jordan's 5 million population are Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

PalestineFacts.org: The 1922 White Paper (also called the Churchill White Paper) was the first official manifesto interpreting the Balfour Declaration. It was issued on June 3, 1922, after investigation of the 1921 disturbances [Arab riots].

Although the White Paper stated that the Balfour Declaration could not be amended and that the Jews were in Palestine by right, it partitioned the area of the Mandate by excluding the area east of the Jordan River from Jewish settlement. That land, 76% of the original Palestine Mandate land, was renamed Transjordan and was given to the Emir Abdullah by the British.

One final Historical Fact of Interest and Relevance:
Great Britain. . . decided that no Jews could reside or buy land in the newly created Emirate. This policy was ratified — after the emirate became a kingdom — by Jordan's law no. 6, sect. 3, on April 3, 1954, and reactivated in law no. 7, sect. 2, on April 1, 1963. It states that any person may become a citizen of Jordan unless he is a Jew.

King Hussein made peace with Israel in 1994, but the Judenrein legislation remains valid today.