ZOA Criticizes Secretary Powell’s Remarks That Prejudge the Outcome of Negotiations
August 8, 2003

Cong. Nadler Takes
Issue with Powell

New York – The ZOA criticizes remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on August 4 that imply that Judea and Samaria belong to the Palestinian Arabs. In comments on Radio Sawa, a U.S.-funded Arabic-language radio station that broadcasts to the Middle East, Secretary Powell stated, “in the case of the Israeli fence, we are concerned when the fence crosses over onto the land of others.”

Secretary Powell’s views indicate that the Bush Administration cannot serve as an honest broker in facilitating negotiations between Israel and Palestinian Arabs regarding the final status of Judea and Samaria. While the Roadmap plan sponsored by President Bush calls for a Palestinian Arab state in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, the plan provides that the borders of the state must be negotiated by the parties. The Secretary’s statement indicates that the Administration has already decided where the borders must be.

Previous U.S. administrations have refrained from prejudging the outcome of negotiations over borders between Israel and Palestinians, and have instead deferred to international law by regarding the territories as disputed. For instance, U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers stated on December 9, 1969, that: “The boundaries from which the 1967 war began were established in the 1949 armistice agreements….Those boundaries were armistice lines, not final political borders….The Security Council Resolution [242] neither endorses nor precludes these armistice lines as the definitive political boundaries.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, who was America’s U.N. Ambassador when U.N. Resolution 242 was enacted, wrote on June 26, 1980, regarding Israel’s obligations under Resolution 242: “The notable omissions [from the Resolution] are the words ‘the’ and ‘all.’ The significance of these omissions is vital to a proper understanding of Resolution 242. The Resolution, in essence, neither commands nor prohibits total Israeli withdrawal. Rather, it remits the extent and timing of any withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the parties to the conflict to negotiate.”

Secretary Powell’s statement is false as a matter of international law; it is out-of-line with longstanding U.S. policy; and it rejects the Israeli position before final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs have even begun.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) responded appropriately to Secretary Powell’s comments by noting that “It is not their [Palestinians’] territory. It is disputed territory until there is an agreement.”

Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA, comments, “one might expect that after three years of Palestinian Arab terror, U.S. policy would not be ‘even-handed’ but rather substantially sympathetic toward Israel’s predicament, especially as we, the United States, are fighting our own war on terror. Instead, Secretary Powell seems to favor the Arab position over that of our democratic ally, Israel.

“How can the U.S. oversee negotiations between the parties when the Secretary of State broadcasts on Arabic radio that Judea and Samaria are Arab property? Unless the Secretary issues a retraction or clarification, the United States has grievously compromised Israel’s negotiating position by throwing its weight behind the maximum Arab claims in advance. We urge President Bush to publicly acknowledge that, under international law, this is disputed land. The U.S. should not take a prejudiced and legally erroneous position favoring the Arabs.”

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