Friday, October 14, 2005

Ever Read What One Could Call "Obfuscation"?

Norman Podhoretz quoted, in passem, an attack Isi Liebler made on US outgoing Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer in his article in COMMENTARY.

Kurtzer replied in a letter (COMMENTARY's Letters columns are famous for their content and those who get published therein).

I am going to quote this in full, Kurtzer and Podhoretz, as some of you out there are lazy and don't click on to get to the source. Kurtzer displays diplomatese, that special language used by diplomats, to its fullest. Read on:

In a letter to the editor
in your July-August issue,
commenting on Norman
Podhoretz’s article, “Bush,
Sharon, My Daughter, and
Me” [April], Allan Leibler
asserts: “At the end of
March, the American ambassador
to Israel, Daniel
Kurtzer, stated emphatically
that there was no understanding
with the U.S. regarding
Israel’s retention of
major Jewish population
centers on the West Bank.”

In his response, Mr. Podhoretz
refers to “the Kurtzer
flap.” Both Mr. Leibler’s assertion
and Mr. Podhoretz’s
offhanded response have no
basis in fact.

The reality is that President
Bush made a clear statement
of U.S. policy in his
April 14, 2004 letter to Prime
Minister Sharon (an excerpt
of which Mr. Podhoretz
quotes accurately), and I, as
the United States ambassador
to Israel, have emphasized
repeatedly and publicly
that this letter reflects American
policy. There is no misunderstanding
between Israel
and the United States in
this regard. Unfortunately, a
totally false article in an Israeli
newspaper in late March
2005 got its facts wrong
about statements attributed
to me, apparently leading
Messrs. Leibler and Podhoretz
to draw erroneous
conclusions.

My own public
statements on the day the
false report was published, as
well as statements for the
record by senior U.S. officials
in Washington, clearly
underscore the continued
applicability of the understandings
conveyed by President
Bush to Prime Minister
Sharon.
Daniel C. Kurtzer
United States Ambassador to
Israel
Tel Aviv, Israel

Norman Podhoretz
writes:
The “flap” to which I referred
did indeed take place,
and it did indeed concern
Ambassador Kurtzer’s reported
denial that the United
States had agreed to Israel’s
retention of the major
Jewish population centers
on the West Bank. Furthermore,
Allan Leibler was—
to put it mildly—far from
the only Israeli who remained
unconvinced by Mr.
Kurtzer’s insistence at the
time that he had never made
the statement attributed to
him by an Israeli newspaper.

In my own response, I
neither endorsed nor rejected
Mr. Leibler’s interpretation
of Mr. Kurtzer’s
disavowal as “damage control.”
I must confess, however,
that Mr. Kurtzer is not
altogether wrong in suspecting
me of having leaned
toward Mr. Leibler’s skepticism.
Even so, I strongly
disagreed with Mr. Leibler’s
idea that the Bush administration
was using its ambassador
to distance itself from
the plain sense of the letter
President Bush wrote to
Prime Minister Sharon on
April 14, 2004. ( Here, yet
again, is the crucial passage:
“In light of new realities on
the ground, including already
existing major Israeli
population centers, it is unrealistic
to expect that the
outcome of final-status negotiations
will be a full and
complete return to the
armistice lines of 1949 [i.e.,
the ’67 borders].”)

Unlike Mr. Leibler, I
thought it more likely that
if Mr. Kurtzer had in fact
denied that these words
meant what they certainly
seemed to mean, he was acting
not as a spokesman for
the President’s policy but as
an opponent. But if so, how
could a sitting ambassador
have dared to come out
openly against the President
he was supposed to be representing?

My guess was that the answer
—if the case were truly
such as to require one—
might lie in Mr. Kurtzer’s
continuing thralldom to the
old policy (according to
which it is axiomatic that law
and justice and peace require
a withdrawal by Israel to the
’67 borders and the removal
of all Jewish settlements
from the West Bank). If this
too were so, he might simply
have been unable to believe
that President Bush had
actually committed the United
States to what could easily
have struck anyone like
himself—anyone, that is,
who had cut his diplomatic
teeth on the old axioms—as
the political equivalent of declaring
that parallel lines will
eventually meet.

And now? Well, persuaded
as I am that (1) President
Bush most definitely did repudiate
the old policy in his
April 14 letter; (2) that he intends
to stick by the assurance
contained in that historic
document; and (3) that
Prime Minister Sharon is
therefore right in claiming
American backing for the inclusion
within Israel’s future
borders of “the already existing
major Jewish population
centers” in Judea and
Samaria—persuaded of all
this, I am more than happy
to drop my initial suspicions
and to take Mr. Kurtzer at
his word when he writes
above that he never questioned
“the continued applicability
of the understandings
conveyed in April
2004 by President Bush to
Prime Minister Sharon.”


Just that you should know, I think Podhoretz is wrong and that no one knows what Bush meant, least of all Bush, but that this was a sop to the State Dept. officials who were traumatized by the slight possibility that Bush actually did agree to an Israeli presence beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines (referred to eupemisitcally as the "Green Line").

1 comment:

Allan Leibler said...

Please note that Ambassador Kurtzer responded to my comments in Commentary and NOT those of Isi Leibler.

Allan Leibler