London: US President Barack Obama reneged on an important Bush administration pledge to give the Palestinians their “land of promise”.
Documents leaked by Al Jazeera TV suggest that Obama retreated from a promise that territory occupied by Israel after the Six Day War of 1967 should become the basis for a future Palestinian state.
According to The Telegraph, the documents, part of a second tranche of the “Palestine Papers” released by Al Jazeera on Monday evening, indicate that Obama’s change of heart was the result of Israeli pressure.
This fact alone is likely to damage Obama’s carefully cultivated image as a friend of the Arab world.
According to the papers, Condoleezza Rice, US president George W Bush’s secretary of state, explicitly endorsed the use of 1967 borders as a basis for future negotiations on dividing territory in the months after the Annapolis peace conference in 2007.
The gesture was a hugely significant one for the Palestinians as it acknowledged the broad outlines of the state they craved.
It was accepted that adjustments to the border would have to be made to allow Israel to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank in return for land in Israel.
But Palestinian hopes that the matter had been settled were dashed when Obama came to power.
Records of a meeting in October 2009 between Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, and George Mitchell, Obama’s Middle East envoy, show the Americans wavering.
The minutes of the meeting indicate that Erekat urged the United States publicly to declare its support for “two states along the ’67 border with agreed swaps”, a commitment Rice only made in private.
Mitchell noted that the US had come under fierce Israeli pressure to resist such a move, but promised to pursue the matter.
The next day, however, he told Erekat to drop the subject.