President Obama and Israel

May 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

In an extraordinary speech last Thursday, President Obama endorsed using the 1967 boundaries as the baseline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  He is the first American president to do so!  [He also prodded Arab governments to carry out the democratic reforms their citizens have demanded in the so-called ?Arab Spring.?]  In the 1967 war, Israel?s victory over Egypt and other Arab neighbors expanded its control over territories in the West Bank and Gaza, over the Golan Heights and over East Jerusalem.  [Since 1967, Israel has enjoyed stability in its north, where before 1967 Syria relentlessly shelled and bombed Israelis in Galilee.  It has reunited Jerusalem and made it the nation?s capital.  In doing so, Israel has made Jerusalem accessible to all peoples of all faiths, something that never occurred in Jerusalem when it was under Arab control.]  In his speech, Obama noted that Israel and the Palestinians would need to swap territory on either side of the 1967 border to account for large settlements that have taken root in the West Bank.  The timing of the President?s speech is also quite critical because the Palestinians are proposing that they will unilaterally declare their own state this coming September.  His speech seems to give them even more credibility and support.  Nonetheless, he did say that ?Symbolic efforts to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won?t create an independent state.?  He also referred to a ?non-militarized? Palestinian state in his speech but that seems totally unrealistic.  Fatah and Hamas recently signed a unity agreement and there is simply no way that Hamas will agree to demilitarizing itself!!!  Obama did recognize the extreme difficulty this unity agreement poses for Israel:  ?How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist??  How indeed!!!!  The President?s strategy seems to be to segregate security and border issues from the more volatile issues of the status of Jerusalem and the fate of the Palestinian refugees, who are still claiming the ?right of return? to their land in Israel.  Officially, the government of Israel responded to President Obama?s speech by declaring that ?while there were many points in the president?s speech that we appreciate and welcome, there were other aspects, like the return to the 1967 borders, which depart from longstanding American policy, as well as Israel policy, going back to 1967.?  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understandably argued that seeing 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations would result in borders that are ?indefensible,? suggesting that the plan would weaken Israeli security and put Jewish settlers at risk.  In fact, Netanyahu gave a speech about two weeks ago in which he acknowledged that Israel is prepared to cede most of the West Bank to a Palestinian state?a major step forward in how he has been positioning Israel for negotiations.  He is willing, up front, to commit to significant withdrawal.

But what about the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the organization that Mahmoud Abbas leads?  Will this not help facilitate Obama?s objectives?  That is highly doubtful, for these reasons:

  1. Mahmoud Abbas refuses to make any upfront concessions of his own but has actually ?blown up? four years of US-sponsored initiatives and the relative prosperity that the West Bank has known the last few years.  By signing the agreement with Hamas, Abbas will no doubt be obligated, in the words of Columnist Jackson Diehl ?to fire his progressive prime minister, release scores of jailed Hamas militants and bond his security forces with Hamas?s Iranian-equipped army.?
  2. Abbas is seeking a UN General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood in September.  In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Abbas argued for a ?declaration of war on the status quo,? by which, with the UN vote for Palestinian statehood, he will be able to ?pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights bodies and the International Court of Justice.?  Put another way, he will get the world community to impose sanctions on Israel.  That is not a path to peace but to war!!!
  3. With this unity agreement plus the UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, there will be a concomitant change in Palestinian doctrine.  The goal is no longer a peace treaty followed by statehood but statehood followed by negotiations, ?a key feature of which will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees,? whose return to Israel would mean its demise.  Abbas declared:  ?Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another.?  As Diehl correctly claims, ?This is a formula for war.?
  4. What has been the principal reaction of the Obama administration to all of this?  It seems as if the reaction is now we must put more pressure on Netanyahu!!!!  Europe has been saying to the US and to Israel, ?Unless you begin negotiating again with the Palestinians, we will vote with the Palestinians in September for statehood.?
  5. Throughout the last few months, Obama has been saying that Abbas of Syria is a reformer, even as he is now gunning down his own people.  Similarly, Obama has been saying that Abbas wants peace and Netanyahu is the problem.  Listen to Diehl:  ?The record of the past several years suggests something very different.  In 2008, Abbas refused to accept a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu?s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, even as a basis for discussion; nor would he make a counteroffer.  ?The gaps are wide,? he later told me in an interview.  For two years he has stoutly resisted peace talks with Netanyahu, even while conceding that the nominal reason for his intransigence?Israel?s refusal to freeze settlements?was forced on him by Obama.  Now Abbas is trying to transform the Arab Spring into a mass movement against Israel.  It is a maneuver that he knows will not bring peace. . . .?

I am appalled by the US government when it comes to this whole matter about Israel and the Palestinians.  Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in peace with Israel.  The above points show that.  Our current president seems to believe that the primary barrier to peace is Israel.  Israel is surrounded by enemies on practically all sides?and its southern border with Egypt is no longer as secure as it has been for the last 30 years.  No other nation faces what Israel faces?people at every edge of its borders that want to extinguish it!  Mahmoud Abbas is no moderate!  Everything about his deal with Hamas and his refusal to make the hard decisions for genuine peace with Israel indicates that.  May God give great wisdom to our leaders as they seek to underwrite and support the existence of Israel.  Were it not for the US, Israel would have been obliterated many years ago.  That the US has supported Israel since 1948 has been the bulwark of its survival.  We have proudly championed the cause of the Jewish people and their homeland in Israel.  For the first time since 1948, that bulwark is seemingly weakening.  May God give President Obama the temerity to stand with Israel and against the UN, Fatah and Hamas.  May he not give in, as he seems to be doing.  May God give him the courage that he now seems to be lacking.  If he does not have the courage, may key members of Congress take up the cause.  The unwavering support of Israel must remain the bedrock of our Middle Eastern policy!

See Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post (18 May 2011); Joby Warrick and Joel Greenberg in the Washington Post (19 May 2011); and several stories in the New York Times on these various issues (20 May 2011). PRINT PDF

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2 Comments to “President Obama and Israel”

  1. Neal Schatz says:

    I hope you will inform the readers that despite what the President spoke about Israel, when the Israeli Prime Minister spoke to Congress a few days later, our legislators gave him nearly unanimous support, seemingly oblivious to the comments of our President shortly before.

  2. Thomas says:

    I wonder how many Americans are aware of Obama’s origin. He was and probably still is a Muslim and was brought up in Indonesia(the biggest Muslim nation in the world with more than 234 million in population).
    And I’m not sure how true is his Christianity faith as anyone can claim to be a Christian and especially when he could get more votes by doing that.
    So, it’s not a surprise that he will side with the Muslims in the Middle East and betray Israel for his Muslim brothers.