Elliott Abrams Gave the Israelis a Hall Pass

The Israelis say that George Bush gave them written permission to expand settlements in the West Bank.

A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president’s efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.

Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush’s letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush’s peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

The part of this story that you’ll really like, though, is that Colin Powell says he never made such an agreement.

Weissglas said that the letter built upon a prior understanding between then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, which would allow Israel to build up settlements within existing construction lines. But Powell denied that. "I never agreed to it," he said in an e-mail.

Whereas Weissglas admits that the final settlement came in an agreement with Iran-Contra alum Elliott Abrams.

Weissglas said he then negotiated a "verbal understanding" with deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams that would permit new construction in those key settlements; Rice and Sharon then approved the Weissglas-Abrams deal. "I do not recall that we had any kind of written formulation," Weissglas said.

Would it surprise anyone that Elliott Abrams concluded some super-secret, cross-my-fingers, Neocons-only deal with the Israelis? Or that Condi Rice, agreed to that settlement, but now pretends she didn’t?

There’s one part of this purported settlement, though, that is especially lovely. In true Neocon fashion, they used "market demand" as their fig leaf to rationalize the new settlements.

Israel could add homes in settlements expected to keep, as long as the construction was dictated by market demand, not subsidies.

It sounds like a remarkable piece of Elliott Abrams work: the West Bank for Gaza, in another freelance, off-the-books act of foreign policy, all the while enshrining the sanctity of the market.

29 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    I’m only surprised that Elliott and his fellow-traveling Likud lobby haven’t yet (that we know of) deeded over parts Iraq to Likud.

    Market demand, doncha know?

    Shorter Elliot Abrams: “Oh, lookee here. We’ve discovered oil on the property of our new winter vacation home.”

    Shorter Condi” “Who would’ve known (wink, wink)?”

  2. brendanx says:

    Why is Olmert telling us this now?

    That’s five Israel-related stories in less than a week after:

    – Kadish
    – Clinton’s ululations
    – Syria reactor
    – Carter-Hamas

    • mattes says:

      One more story, Moody’s taking care of Israel:

      Israel bond ratings raised to ‘A1′ from ‘A2′ – Moody’s

      Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Israel’s key ratings, saying the country has proved resilient in the face of repeated economic and political shocks.

      It also cited the country’s ‘firmly established fiscal discipline and its ongoing financial and political support from the United States and the Jewish diaspora’.

      The government foreign and local currency bond ratings have been upgraded to ‘A1′ from ‘A2′, and the foreign currency ceiling for bank deposits has been upgraded to ‘A1′ from ‘A2′ as well. All other sovereign ratings have been affirmed, including the ‘Aa1′ country ceiling for long-term foreign currency debt.

  3. PJEvans says:

    We should have locked Abrams up the first time we caught him breaking the law. Or at least banned him from working for the government in any way.

  4. klynn says:

    Wow, busy Israeli week…has someone in the Franklin case turned?

    All we need now is to find out that for sure the…

    Ledeen-Rhode-Franklin trip to Rome in 2001 may have played a role in the circulation of the forged documents.

    Yes, we should have locked Abrams up the first time…

  5. bmaz says:

    Um, just exactly how did we gain the authority and power to act as the county assessor and zoning commissioner for the Palestinian land? I know it is such a trivial question, but I am a little slow on the uptake….

  6. maryo2 says:

    Should we trust that Powell knows what he has done in the past? He seemed pretty caught-off-guard about those mobile bio-weapons labs. He may suffer from “They pushed it under my nose, so I signed it” syndrome.

    • emptywheel says:

      I had that thought. I think there are several options.

      They worked around him and now the neocons are blaming him.

      Like with torture, he simply doesn’t recall.

      Or that he’s telling the truth.

  7. SparklestheIguana says:

    So does this mean if the foreclosure crisis hits the settlements hard, the settlers will be ejected from the West Bank? Because that would be the market speaking.

  8. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    If you go back thousands of years, it’s my understanding that the concept of ‘justice’ (Greek = ‘Dike’, or ‘pathway of wise action’) traces back to an association with pillars of stone set up to mark property boundaries.

    Originally, the pillars were probably grave markers; over time, they marked off territories between clans, tribes, and eventually cities. These pillars were called by many names, but eventually their names were brought into the realm of law and associated with concepts of ‘justice’ and ‘paths of wise conduct’.

    To act wisely, or ‘justly’ was integrally related to the concept of recognizing boundaries, and to following ’safe paths’. A wise man did not ‘overstep his boundaries’, nor overstep his ‘fate’.

    The notion of ‘fate,’ was embodied in the imagination as women spinning cloth used to swaddle infants at birth; the the ‘fates’ (or “Moira”) were linked to the notion of allotment: to each, his own. But to seek more than one’s ‘fate’, or ‘portion’ was to invite disaster.

    One of the Moira was called “Lachesis”, which is a term related to a piece of marked bone used to cast lots. You ‘cast your lot’ to determine what land you were able to farm or use to sustain your family.

    To ‘overstep one’s boundaries’ in behavior, or territory, inevitably aroused avenging ‘furies’ (or ‘Erinyes’) of the violated territory (or customs). The ‘Furies’ were bloodsucking, relentless forces that aroused such anger and rage that men became blinded to wise judgment, thereby dooming themselves to certain and inevitable destruction — either through their own hand, or that of the enemies they’d awakened.

    Hence, the Greek wisdom embodied in the edict to ‘Know Thyself’, which also implied recognizing one’s own boundaries, one’s own spheres of expertise and weakness.

    The human race has not altered so much in the last 5,000 years that the fundamental dynamics synthesized in these ancient tales no longer apply. We’re still wired to recognize these relationships and dynamics.

    People are being blinded by anger, and doing stupid things.

    The chances of doing stupid, dangerous things are enormously heightened any time a person is in an ambiguous situation.
    Things like ‘verbal agreements’ and ’secret agreements’ CREATE ambiguity, which then makes it almost inevitable that useless, needless tragedies will occur.

  9. klynn says:

    I meant to post this last week too…

    I think with the AIPAC spy issues, the lobbying Israel needed, required a new kid on the team…

    Here’s the new JStreet lobby, a pro peace Israeli lobby…


    The fear of war for Lebanese…


    Israeli talks of return to Golan…


    And then Cheney gets Petraeus…

    I’ll tell you, with everthing that has “hit the fan” this week irt Israel and Iran, I need a timeline…

    There is a high-level fight going on in Washington…

  10. klynn says:

    I think thou dost protest too much…


    ISRAEL has assured the US that it has not spied on its key ally since 1985, after the arrest in New York of a US Army veteran charged with passing defence secrets to the Jewish state nearly 30 years ago.

    “The events go back to the early 1980s. Since 1985 there have been clear orders from (Israel’s) prime ministers not to conduct these kind of activities,” foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said.

  11. LabDancer says:

    One would think by now Powell would realize the whole idea of his hire by Bush & Cheney was so he would be available to throw under the bus. He & his BFF Armitage could man up & cause even Pelosi to get on board the Impeachment train. Maybe once it gets thru that thick ex-Army hard head of his that the Republican Party is now pulling their old pointy hats out of mothballs to join in a White Mass in an effort to keep the Bob Jones U branch of the Reagan base in the fold…but I will just keep breathing normally in the meantime.

  12. klynn says:

    You know t-shirts with just the simple word


    could be interesting at political events…

  13. LabDancer says:

    But then you would need an arrow or something…maybe a sawn off arrow rendered from the letters in ”flaccid” in a la early Rolling Stone script, drooping down towards that blog pic of Senator McAngermismanagement with his chipmunk cheeks all puffed out – the one with that caption re Hagee [I misquote from memory]: ”I baked you up a vanilla baby Jesus – but then I got hungry & ated it”

  14. merkwurdiglieber says:

    Ridiculous, but not surprising… Junya is a long gone dominionist
    rapture baby, and those starkers play him like a cheap guitar.

  15. Sara says:

    Well, perhaps it is as Bob Woodward reported, W goes out into the Rose Garden every once in a while, and has this little phone conversation over his super-secret cell phone connection with God, And just as God ordered the invasion of Iraq, he later ordered W to give Palestinian Lands to Israel. And W hath obeyed his master.

    But I suspect one of W’s BFF will be most upset by this; The Saudi Arabian King who nearly broke off relations with the US during the summer of 2001 when he was still Crown Prince. Under pressure from his own subjects, who were watching on TV the Israeli Military response to the second Intifada, and demanding a response from the Saudi Royal Family, Bandar Bush visited W in Crawford in that uneventful August of 2001, complete with tapes of the IDF shooting children, and a scrap-book of additional pictures, and a letter from the Crown Prince drawing some lines in the sand, and extracted a response to the Crown Prince’s letter. One aspect of the response was Bush’s later Rose Garden statement favoring a Two State solution — with the Rose Garden Statement coming after the 9/11 attack. The Rose Garden Statement is important because it really is the first time an American Principle has been clear on this matter — and it was in response to the Saudi threat delivered by Bandar. One of the threats was the immediate removal of all American Personnel, Civilian and Military from Saudi Arabia.

    For a good footnoted version of the backroom politics that transpired in the late summer, early fall of 2001, and then into 2002 — check out Chapter 7 in Mearsheimer & Walt’s book, “The Israel Lobby” — Chapter 7 being “The Lobby Versus the Palestinians.” By the way, Tenet also has a partial version of this story.

    I assume that one reason the Joint Committee Intelligence Report on 9/11 had 28 pages censored out, was not only because it traced the finance behind 9/11 back to Saudi sources, but because it probably dealt with the profoundly conflicted policy clearly obvious to the players, that the US had adopted. On one hand, respond to Saudi threats by putting the US in support of the Two State Solution, (and everyone knows that does not involve Settler’s taking over West Bank Lands,) and in direct conflict, the now revealed Bush letter to Sharon that says the exact opposite. I can see the Saudi’s making the sands of the desert fly the way a Siberian Husky does when it is of a mind to bury something. In the past, I assume they knew that secretly Bush did something like that, (they are no strangers to deception), but they cannot tolerate it being public knowledge. Given that the BBC last night was running stories about the situation in Gaza, where the Israeli’s have not permitted the delivery of fuel for the electrical system, and the fresh water is nearly off, and the sewage is not being pumped, and is running in the streets, and the UN has decided to remove personnel because they can no longer deliver services, which means cutting about 600,000 off from their food supply, I would not be at all surprised if we don’t see a fairly nasty reaction in short order. I suspect some of the revelations are part of a build up to whatever is contemplated.

  16. MadDog says:

    OT and Breaking – In case EW needs something to chew on tomorrow, she might try this:

    Court Sets Deadline for White House Answers on Missing E-mail

    Order Could Force White House to Save Individual Workstation Files; Action Comes in Response to Archive Motion

    Responding to the National Security Archive’s motion in the pending White House e-mail lawsuit, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola of the U.S. District Court today ordered the White House to provide “precise information” about the users of the e-mail system from 2003 to 2005 and how many of their hard drives still survive today.

    Citing the “lack of precision” in White House statements and its changing story about which backup tapes have been preserved, Magistrate Judge Facciola also ordered the White House to “resolve any ambiguities … once and for all” and identify the specific dates between March 2003 and October 2003 for which no backup tape exists.

    The magistrate judge also recommended that District Judge Henry H. Kennedy issue a series of orders that would compel the White House to search the individual workstations of White House staff, preserve the personal folders (.PST files in the Microsoft environment) where e-mail may have been stored, and secure any portable or external media that may contain e-mail from March 2003 to October 2005. Referring to the White House position that it has no formal program for distributing “hard or external drives, CDs, DVDs, jump, zip, hard, or floppy disks,” Magistrate Judge Facciola commented “[o]ne would hope that the components have filled the void left by [Office of Chief Information Officer] by implementing policies and procedures to “track and manage” the removal and/or transfer of [Executive Office of the President] data…”

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