Obama policy speech devastating for Israel

May 28, 2011


Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The long-standing American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel’s security and diplomatic needs.

It’s on the basis of such solemn assurances that Israel undertook, for example, the Gaza withdrawal. In order to mitigate this risk, President George W. Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel absorbing major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.

For two and a half years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different” from 1967.

It means nothing of the sort. “Mutually” means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn’t? Then, by definition, you’re back to the 1967 lines.

Nor is this merely a theoretical proposition. Three times the Palestinians have been offered exactly that formula, 1967 plus swaps — at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away.

And that remains their position today: The 1967 lines. Period. Indeed, in September the Palestinians are going to the U.N. to get the world to ratify precisely that — a Palestinian state on the ‘67 lines. No swaps.

Note how Obama has undermined Israel’s negotiating position. He is demanding that Israel go into peace talks having already forfeited its claim to the territory won in the ‘67 war — its only bargaining chip. Remember: That ‘67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter are Palestinian — alien territory for which Israel must now bargain.

The very idea that Judaism’s holiest shrine is alien or that Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter is rightfully or historically or demographically Arab is an absurdity. And the idea that, in order to retain them, Israel has to give up parts of itself is a travesty.

Obama also moved the goal posts on the so-called right of return. Flooding Israel with millions of Arabs would destroy the world’s only Jewish state while creating a 23rd Arab state and a second Palestinian state — not exactly what we mean when we speak of a “two-state solution.” That’s why it has been the policy of the United States to adamantly oppose this “right.”

Yet in his State Department speech, Obama refused to simply restate this position — and refused again in a supposedly corrective speech three days later. Instead, he told Israel it must negotiate the right of return with the Palestinians after having given every inch of territory. Bargaining with what, pray tell?

No matter. “The status quo is unsustainable,” declared Obama, “and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”

Israel too? Exactly what bold steps for peace have the Palestinians taken? Israel made three radically conciliatory offers to establish a Palestinian state, withdrew from Gaza and has been trying to renew negotiations for more than two years. Meanwhile, the Gaza Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages. And on the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turns down the Olmert offer, walks out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu and now defies the United States by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood — without peace, without recognizing Israel — at the U.N. And to make unmistakable this spurning of any peace process, Abbas agrees to join the openly genocidal Hamas in a unity government, which even Obama acknowledges makes negotiations impossible.

Obama’s response to this relentless Palestinian intransigence? To reward it — by abandoning the Bush assurances, legitimizing the ‘67 borders and refusing to reaffirm America’s rejection of the right of return.

The only remaining question is whether this perverse and ultimately self-defeating policy is born of genuine antipathy toward Israel or of the arrogance of a blundering amateur who refuses to see that he is undermining not just peace but the very possibility of negotiations.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

Well, there's still the old bargaining chip - war. And from reading the history of that region, it looks like it's going to happen again for the 7th, 8th, or is it 9th time?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 12 months ago

I'll say it again: Anyone who supports Israel's right to exist and votes for Obama in 2012 has a screw loose.

cowboy 6 years, 12 months ago

From Jed Lewison - Huffpost

President Obama: Pre-1967 borders with mutual swaps.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: We won't go back to 1967 borders.

President Obama: I said "pre-1967."

Prime Minister Netanyahu: Oh, ok.

President Obama: With mutual swaps.

Prime Minster Netanyahu: Well, we want pre-1967 borders with mutual swaps, but only if Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

President Obama: You're right. Palestinians must recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. And that's what i said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: Oh, well, then we agree.

President Obama: Yes, we do.

Republican Noise Machine: Obama sucks! BOO!

Republican Noise Machine: Netanyahu rocks! YAY!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 12 months ago

Gee, more highly selective and highly slanted crap from craphammer, what a surprise.

Corey Williams 6 years, 12 months ago

*from the forum's most vitriolic, prolific crap-slinger.

Getaroom 6 years, 12 months ago

Nicely summed up Bozo and thank you very much!

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 12 months ago

It seems like my Israeli friends do a lot of complaining about how much the Palestinians hate them and just won’t cooperate with their desire to exist. Israel spends a lot of time and money militarizing Israel and the west bank and trying to keep the Palestinians “under control” while building more and more settlements. What I don’t see from the Israelis is a serious push to get the Palestinians and their other neighbors to see them as anything but an invasion force.

Hey guys, you can have the biggest and baddest military in the region supported by Uncle Sam and you can complain about the Palestinians and their inability to see it your way as much as you want, but at the end of the day, Israel will continue to be at odds with her neighbors if the us vs. them attitude continues. Israel has about 30 more years until the Arabian oil runs out. Central Asian oil and natural gas will become much more interesting for the western powers and guess who will be de-funded or even worse, labeled the antagonist? Have you forgotten that right after the Shah of Iran was kicked out of Iran by the mullahs, the US lifted its embargo on Israel? Yes, the US had an embargo on Israel shunned her while the UK and France were the supporters of Israel. Have you forgotten that the US only became best buds with Israel after our golden boy the Shah suddenly lost our position in the middle east?

For this reason, I ask my friends in Israel to re-think the long term strategy. Abandon the west bank and make the other people in the region see you as less of a threat, because that is exactly how they see you just as you see them as a threat. I know that it won’t be easy and there is no magic bullet, but the current strategy isn’t working. Try something different. The next generation of Israeli and Arab people could be much happier and on better terms if we start now.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 12 months ago

You make some good points about what Israel should do. What should the Palestinians do? Should Hamas reconcile with Fatah and should they renounce violence? And if a promise of non-violence is violated, what would be an appropriate response? What is Lebanon's role in this considering Hezbollah, another terrorist organization is now a significant part of the government? What role would Syria play in all this? And Jordan? and Egypt, with their own internal issues, how does this play into your idea of Israel making peace? And what about Iran? Iraq lobbed missiles into Israel, will Iran when they have that capability? Or will they wait until they can attach nuclear weapons to their missiles? And the ever present question of what to do with rogue organizations operating within the borders of a country with or without the tacit approval of their host? Just thought I'd throw some food for thought out there.

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 12 months ago

you may have missed the point i was trying to make. the truth is that israel is the one who is going to be in danger as soon as she loses her supporters. the arab countries feel really threatened by israel (just as israel feels threatened by them). in order for israel to secure her future, she needs to think of a strategy that does not involve relying upon western countries protecting her. her best option is getting on genuine better terms with her neighbors. as i said above, there's no magic bullet and it's not going to be simple nor easy, but the current strategy and attitude does not secure israel's future. the up and coming generation of arabs want peace and democracy and to have good lives, we saw this desire manifest itself over the past few months. the time is right for israel to try and mend the fence with this new generation of arab neighbors. it will take time, but it is the best long term strategy going forward.

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

Why is it that Palestinians or Muslims are at such odds with the Jewish people? Seriously, what's the deal?

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 12 months ago

Generally over the past 1500 years Jews and Muslims have actually gotten along quite well. Of course there are a few instances where they hated each others’ guts, but for the most part, they have been able to live in peace with one another. There are many more cases of jews and muslims fighting side by side as opposed to against each other over the past few centuries (ie. the crusades, Spanish inquisition, etc.) The most recent problems have been caused by Western interference. Prior the second world war, in what is now Israel and Palestine, there were a lot of arab jews and muslims living close to one another and getting along quite well. it’s unfortunate really that the current politics and special interests have caused two groups of people who share so many similarities are being pitted against one another the way they are today.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

I had an employer some years back named Wahid. He claimed to be Palistinian, although he was born in Cairo, Egypt where his mother still lived. He had never visited any of the Palistinian territories at all, ever. I met him after he came here to the USA.

One time I asked him just about the exact same question you just asked, right after he made the comment that the Jews were their cousins.

HIs answer? "We hate them!"

I asked, "Why is that?"

"I don't know! We just do!" was his answer.

Bossa_Nova 6 years, 12 months ago

thats sad really, i'll bet if you asked his great grandfather that question a hundred years ago he would tell you that he had several good jewish friends that he admired. jews and muslims are very capable of getting along, but when others get involved they are easily divided and conquered.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

Divide and conquer.

That's a good strategy for a chess game!

jhawkinsf 6 years, 12 months ago

Yasser Arafat was also born in Egypt. Ariel Sharon was born on a family farm, outside Tel Aviv. Both were born with a few years of each other, 20+ years before the creation of Israel. Why is the man born in Egypt a Palestinian and the man born in Palestine not a Palestinian?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

Maybe for the same reason that Adolf Hitler, who was an Austrian, claimed to be a German?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

Only a few years ago I had a rather interesting, although very short, conversation with a Muslim from Persia, which he refused to call Iran due to political reasons.

The question I asked him was, "Why are the Sunnis and the Shiites fighting each other all the time? This was in the early days of the war in Iraq.

He drew an interesting analogy. He said, "It's all political, just like the Protestants and the Catholics. They get along fine over here, but in Ireland they're fighting each other all the time."

On another topic, I have a friend whose mother is a full blooded Syrian. His take on the whole matter is that the Arabs are all either fighting each other, or fighting the Jews.

It's a cultural and political thing we will never understand as Americans. For a fundamentalist Muslim, the whole world will be Islamic one day, because it is the only true religion.

That sets it far, far apart from Judaism, which teaches that there are many ways to reach G-d, and Judaism is not at all exclusive. And in fact, being Jewish does not give you any special status at all in the life to come. It just makes this life easier.

So, when one religion claims to be exclusive, and another claims not to be, there will be very great differences.

One of the differences is that devout Muslims believe that all Jews are going to hell, and Jews not only do not believe in hell at all, but also claim that anyone, Muslims, Christians, Buddists, Aethists, etc, all will share in the life to come.

And now, looking back at your original question, your phrasing gives it all away. You asked:

"Why is it that Palestinians or Muslims are at such odds with the Jewish people?

Well, it's like this. The Jews don't have a problem with the Muslims, because all of the righteous among us will share in the life to come. (that is, if there is one, not all Jews believe there is) But, the Muslims believe that all the Jews are going to be subject to G-d's wrath.

Now, which one of the two do you think is the more tolerant religion?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

And for a P.S., I am not talking about the government of Israel. It seems that Israel is being governed by secular former military leaders. They seem to win elections because they promise security.

pizzapete 6 years, 12 months ago

So basically, it sounds like the Muslims have some spiritual leaders similiar to Fred Phelps who are telling them that their God hates people? Unless we can get these leaders to stop teaching hate, it's going to be a real challenge to get these people to change their ideology.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 12 months ago

That might be true of some Muslims, but I tend to doubt that they are anywhere near the majority, especially the more educated ones that have more accurate information about the position that the world is in today.

I think that the problem is that some of the spiritual leaders in some foreign countries are teaching values that have nothing to do with common sense.

There is also the fact that a lot of Muslims in foreign countries are led to believe that the real problem in the world today is Israel, and not the political problems at home. But, they have no access to information that is anywhere near accurate, so one can hardly blame them for what they believe. After all, they never heard the other side of the story, because in many Islamic countries the press is tightly controlled in order to promote the government's agenda.

It's much easier to point out one bad apple in a bushel than to point out that except for a few bad ones, the bushel is full of good apples.

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