Less than two weeks later, at an Oct. 1 meeting at the State Department, Mitchell (joined by David Hale, Mara Rudman, and Jonathan Schwartz -- the department's legal advisor) re-emphasizes Hale's point on Jerusalem -- and, in a discussion about a paper detailing the negotiations' terms of reference, signals that the U.S. will not hold Israel to its Roadmap obligations. "Why is there no reference to the Roadmap?" Erekat asks. Hale responds: "Why do you need that?" Again, Erekat is adamant: "…I won't abandon RM [Roadmap] phase I obligations." Mitchell pushes him: "I want to remind you that we need language that both sides can agree to," he says. But the key moment comes later in the discussion, as Erekat presses Mitchell on accepting language for a terms of reference agreed to by the Bush administration.
Mitchell: "Again I tell you that President Obama does not accept prior decisions by Bush. Don't use this because it can hurt you. Countries are bound by agreements -- not discussions or statements."
Erekat: "But this was an agreement with Sec. Rice."
Schwartz: "It is not legally binding -- not an agreement."
Erekat: "For God's sake, she said to put it on the record. It was the basis for the maps."
It is during this meeting that it slowly dawns on Erekat that, faced with Israeli intransigence, the Obama administration has abandoned the Bush administration's language on a "terms of reference" (which will frame the negotiations) and on Israel's obligations under the Roadmap. For him, the message is clear: When Israel insists, America retreats. Negotiations over territory will no longer be based on the '67 lines ("They didn't agree to it," Mitchell says), and a moratorium on settlement construction will not include Jerusalem. Erekat can hardly believe what he's hearing: "I want my obligations under the RM -- this is what we have been basing our work on. You are now doing this exercise all over again. A new RM [Roadmap]!" Mitchell is sympathetic, but unmoved. "I understand the frustrations," he says.