Exchange of Letters Concerning the Disengagement Plan

This term refers to the exchanged between PM Sharon and President Bush, as well as a letter from Bush to Palestinian PM Ahmad Qurei concerning the Disengagement Plan.

Definition

The term “Exchange of Letters Concerning the Disengagement Plan” refers to three open letters exchanged between PM Sharon and President Bush (4/14/04), as well as a letter from President Bush to Palestinian PM Ahmad Qurei (Abu-Ala) (11/5/04) concerning PM Sharon’s Disengagement Plan.

Background

The Disengagement Plan was first presented by PM Sharon in his Hertzliya Speech (12/03). It was launched against the backdrop of difficulties to advance to the 2nd Phase of the Road Map and the continuation of violence. The plan is based on the assumption that, at that stage, there was no Palestinian partner that Israel could negotiate with.

Letter from PM Sharon to President Bush (4/14/04)

  • Sharon introduces his disengagement Plan.
  • Israel reiterates its committed to the Roadmap (4/03).
  • PM Sharon further repeats Israel’s commitment to limit growth of settlements, remove illegal outposts and to allow greater freedom of movement for Palestinians.

Letter from President Bush to PM Sharon (4/14/04)

  • President Bush remains committed to his vision of two states living side by side in peace and security as the key to peace, and to the roadmap as the route to get there.
  • However, President Bush endorses the Disengagement Plan as a step that will mark real progress toward realizing his vision.
  • The US understands that after Israel withdraws from Gaza and/or parts of the West Bank, and pending agreements on other arrangements, existing arrangements regarding control of airspace, territorial waters, and land passages of the West Bank and Gaza will continue.
  • The US reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats.
  • The Palestinian leadership must act decisively against terror. The US will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism. · The United States is strongly committed to Israel's security and well-being as a Jewish state.
  • Hence, it seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
  • As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
  • In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations’ 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.
  • President Bush is aware of Israel’s government’s position regarding the barrier (“The security fence”) being erected as long as it is a security rather than political barrier, temporary rather than permanent, and does not prejudice any final status issues including final borders.
  • The US supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent President Bush’s letter was attached as an appendix to the Disengagement Plan.

Letter from President Bush to PM Ahmad Qurei (5/11/04)

  • President Bush reiterates his commitment to the vision of two independent states –Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security, and to the Roadmap as the route to get there.
  • Under PM Sharon’s Proposal, the withdrawal from all settlements in Gaza Strip and several more in the West Bank, is a powerful precedent for further West Bank withdrawals.
  • If the plan is implemented, there is a real chance to move forward towards peace and towards the realization of Palestinian national aspirations.
  • The building of the institutions of a Palestinian State could then begin, in earnest, in Gaza.
  • President Bush urges Qurei and his Cabinet to seize the moment and undertake practical, positive steps that will meet roadmap commitments and will make an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank a turning point in this long and tragic conflict, and will truly improve the lives of Palestinians living there.
  • The United States will join with others in the international community to foster the development of democratic Palestinian political institutions and new leadership committed to those institutions, the reconstruction of civil institutions, the growth of a free and prosperous economy, and the building of capable security institutions dedicated to maintaining law and order and dismantling terrorist organizations.
  • The United States will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations, including on the borders of a Palestinian state. All final status issues must still be negotiated between the parties to reach mutually agreed results. The Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.
  • Those negotiations must reflect certain realities about the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, the future Palestinian state, and the security of Israel as a Jewish state. There must be an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.