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Opinion

Opinion

Obama policy speech devastating for Israel

May 28, 2011

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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.

Comments

ochocinco 2 years, 10 months ago

We all know the definition of insanity, yet I don't know why Israel keeps electing empty suits. Netanyahu is no more conservative than his predecessor.

The only way Jews will ever see peace short of the second coming of the Messiah is to rid all Muslims from their borders. Yes, by force. The Muslims do not want peace, they want jihad. The Muslims do not want compromise, they want to dominate the world. Read the Koran.

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pizzapete 2 years, 10 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.

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pizzapete 2 years, 10 months ago

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

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jhawkinsf 2 years, 10 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.

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Bossa_Nova 2 years, 10 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.

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Getaroom 2 years, 10 months ago

Nicely summed up Bozo and thank you very much!

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 10 months ago

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

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cowboy 2 years, 10 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!

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DeaconBlue 2 years, 10 months ago

Antisemitism during Arab/Liberal Spring? Who would have thought it. The 2 billion fiat dollars Mahdi is giving the Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia should help with spreading the love in the region.

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 10 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.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 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?

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