US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the weekend insisted that Israel had never received a formal green light to continue allowing natural growth in existing Jewish settlements under former President George W. Bush.
Following her meeting with the visiting Turkish foreign minister in Washington on Friday, Clinton rejected assertions that there had been a firm understanding between Bush and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the growth of existing settlements could continue unhindered if Israel agreed to not build new Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
“There is no memorialization of any informal and oral agreements. If they did occur, which, of course, people say they did, they did not become part of the official position of the United States government,” she told reporters.
Israeli officials on Sunday complained that Sharon had only signed on to the Gaza withdrawal and the US-authored Road Map peace plan because of those understandings, and that Clinton’s position was making it difficult for Israel to ever again trust the promises of a US government.
Indeed, Sharon and his successor, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, hailed the understandings between themselves and Bush as historical breakthroughs for the Jewish state in gaining the backing of a major Western power for Israel’s legitimate claims to the land, even if it would ultimately have to give up those claims.