* Controversial Ofer brothers ship that docked in Iran “was carrying Israel Air Force Blackhawk helicopters, hidden in modified containers, with Israeli commandos on board”
* Lebanese-born scholar Fouad Ajami: “[While Israel has had a series of compromising leaders] sadly, the Palestinian national movement has known a different kind of leadership, unique in its mix of maximalism and sense of entitlement, in its refusal to accept what can and can’t be had in the world of nations. Leadership is often about luck, the kind of individuals a people’s history brings forth. It was the distinct misfortune of the Palestinians that for nearly four decades, they were led by Yasser Arafat … Arafat was neither a Ben-Gurion leading his people to statehood, nor an Anwar Sadat accepting the logic of peace and compromise.”
* “Palestine has become a great Arab shame. Few Arabs were willing to tell the story truthfully, to face its harsh verdict. No leader has had the courage to tell those who had left Acre and Jaffa and Haifa that they could not recover the homes and orchards of their imagination… They were no more likely to find political satisfaction than the Jews who had been banished from Baghdad and Beirut and Cairo, and Casablanca and Fez. (Wadi Abu Jamil, the Jewish quarter of the Beirut of my boyhood, is now a Hezbollah stronghold, and no narrative exalts or recalls that old presence.)”
* “The 1947 vote at the General Assembly was of immense help, but it wasn’t the decisive factor in the founding of the Jewish state. The hard work had been done in the three decades between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the vote on partition.” The UN can’t deliver a Palestinian state; first the Palestinians need to do the hard work of building a state and taking responsibility for their own economy.
* Charles Krauthammer: “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 then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer, walks out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu and now defies the U.S. by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood – without peace, without recognizing Israel – at the UN. 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.
* Elliott Abrams: Missing from the Bibi vs. Barack drama in Washington was the man who really torpedoed the peace process, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is 76 and will retire from politics next year, having announced that he will not seek reelection. A man without charisma or great political courage, he was never a serious candidate to make the difficult compromises that a peace deal with Israel would require and then defend himself against charges of treason and betrayal. To the generous peace offer made by Ehud Olmert in 2008, Abbas responded with silence.
* Obama’s mistreatment of the visiting Netanyahu can only have deepened the latter’s belief that Obama was irretrievably hostile. Obama gave a major Middle East speech the day before Netanyahu arrived. The message was clear: I have no interest in what you are saying and will make my views plain even before we exchange one word.
* Worse yet was the lack of any advance notice. The Israelis had been told days before that the Obama speech would cover the Arab Spring and say little about them, and were given only a couple of hours’ notice that, on the contrary, the president would make a significant policy statement that contradicted Israeli views. They felt – and they were – blindsided.
* In the Clinton and Bush administrations such major policy statements were preceded by weeks of consultations, and when a president breaks that pattern it is a deliberate and powerful message. This is the explanation for the brief tutorial in Israeli security concerns that Netanyahu held Friday in the Oval Office: The gloves were off, but it was Obama who took them off first.
Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, 13, had his penis cut off and was then tortured to death by the Syrian security forces
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. You first have to press “Like” on that page.)
1. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if The New York Times reported properly on Syria?
2. Australian FM: “Assad should stand trial for human rights abuses”
3. Extra note: “Ofer ships in Iran carried Blackhawk helicopters”
4. “The UN can’t deliver a Palestinian state” (By Fouad Ajami, Wall St Journal, June 1, 2011)
4. “The Third Man” (By Elliott Abrams, The Weekly Standard, Edition of June 6, 2011)
6. “What Obama did to Israel” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, May 26, 2011)
[Note by Tom Gross]
WOULDN’T IT BE FANTASTIC IF THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTED PROPERLY ON SYRIA?
From the London Daily Mail (and countless other papers):
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if The New York Times, and its global counterpart the International Herald Tribune, also reported properly on Syria? If they could devote even 10 percent of the space they give to their columnists, editorials and news reporters to drag Israel through the mud, to covering Syria, they might finally be able to claim they were actually a “paper of record”.
(Of course, The New York Times has a long history of failing to report properly on the crimes of dictators, most notably covering up for Stalin in the 1930s and for Hitler in the 1940s.)
If only Obama would say something similar.
I attach articles below by Fouad Ajami (a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies), Elliott Abrams (a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and formerly deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration), and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. All three writers are subscribers to this email list.
-- Tom Gross
Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat, his boss of 40 years
EXTRA NOTE: “OFER SHIPS IN IRAN CARRIED BLACKHAWK HELICOPTERS”
There has been a great deal of controversy and negative publicity in recent days in newspapers such as The Financial Times, about Israel’s richest family, the Ofer family, after the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on Tanker Pacific Ltd., owned by the Ofers, for selling a tanker to an Iranian company in breach of sanctions against Iran.
Sources indicate that the wave of negative publicity against the Ofers may be unjustified. The ships owned by the Ofer brothers that docked in Iran may have carried Israel Air Force Blackhawk helicopters with Israeli commandos on board, enabling Israelis to conduct reconnaissance missions against Iran’s nuclear sites without arousing suspicion.
(For more details of alleged Israeli actions to slow down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, please see here.)
FIRST THE PALESTINIANS NEED TO DO SOME HARD WORK
The UN can’t deliver a Palestinian state
The General Assembly vote that created Israel was the culmination of decades of hard work on the ground.
By Fouad Ajami
The Wall Street Journal
June 1, 2011
It had been quite a scramble, the prelude to the vote on Nov. 29, 1947, on the question of the partition of Palestine. The United Nations itself was only two years old and had just 56 member states; the Cold War was gathering force, and no one was exactly sure how the two pre-eminent powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, would vote. The Arab and Muslim states were of course unalterably opposed, for partition was a warrant for a Jewish state.
In the end, the vote broke for partition, the U.S. backed the resolution, and two days later the Soviet Union followed suit. It was a close call: 10 states had abstained, 13 had voted against, 33 were in favor, only two votes over the required two-thirds majority.
Now, some six decades later, the Palestinians are calling for a vote in the next session of the General Assembly, in September, to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. In part, this is an appropriation by the Palestinians of the narrative of Zionism. The vote in 1947 was viewed as Israel’s basic title to independence and statehood. The Palestinians and the Arab powers had rejected partition and chosen the path of war. Their choice was to prove calamitous.
By the time the guns had fallen silent, the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, had held its ground against the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Its forces stood on the shores of the Red Sea in the south, and at the foot of the Golan Heights in the north. Palestinian society had collapsed under the pressure of war. The elites had made their way to neighboring lands. Rural communities had been left atomized and leaderless. The cities had fought, and fallen, alone.
Palestine had become a great Arab shame. Few Arabs were willing to tell the story truthfully, to face its harsh verdict. Henceforth the Palestinians would live on a vague idea of restoration and return. No leader had the courage to tell the refugees who had left Acre and Jaffa and Haifa that they could not recover the homes and orchards of their imagination.
Some had taken the keys to their houses with them to Syria and Lebanon and across the river to Jordan. They were no more likely to find political satisfaction than the Jews who had been banished from Baghdad and Beirut and Cairo, and Casablanca and Fez, but the idea of return, enshrined into a “right of return,” would persist. (Wadi Abu Jamil, the Jewish quarter of the Beirut of my boyhood, is now a Hezbollah stronghold, and no narrative exalts or recalls that old presence.)
History hadn’t stood still. The world was remade. In 1947-48, when the Zionists had secured their statehood, empires were coming apart, borders were fluid, the international system of states as we know it quite new. India and Pakistan had emerged as independent, hostile states out of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, and Israel had secured its place in the order of nations a year later. Many of the Arab states were still in their infancy.
But the world is a vastly different place today. The odds might favor the Palestinians in the General Assembly, but any victory would be hollow.
The Palestinians have misread what transpired at the General Assembly in 1947. True, the cause of Jewish statehood had been served by the vote on partition, but the Zionist project had already prevailed on the ground. Jewish statehood was a fait accompli perhaps a decade before that vote. All the ingredients had been secured by Labor Zionism. There was a military formation powerful enough to defeat the Arab armies, there were political institutions in place, and there were gifted leaders, David Ben-Gurion pre-eminent among them, who knew what can be had in the world of nations.
The vote at the General Assembly was of immense help, but it wasn’t the decisive factor in the founding of the Jewish state. The hard work had been done in the three decades between the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the vote on partition. Realism had guided the Zionist project. We will take a state even if it is the size of a tablecloth, said Chaim Weizmann, one of the founding fathers of the Zionist endeavor.
Sadly, the Palestinian national movement has known a different kind of leadership, unique in its mix of maximalism and sense of entitlement, in its refusal to accept what can and can’t be had in the world of nations. Leadership is often about luck, the kind of individuals a people’s history brings forth. It was the distinct misfortune of the Palestinians that when it truly mattered, and for nearly four decades, they were led by a juggler, Yasser Arafat, a man fated to waste his people’s chances.
Arafat was neither a Ben-Gurion leading his people to statehood, nor an Anwar Sadat accepting the logic of peace and compromise. He had been an enemy of Israel, but Israel had reached an accord with him in 1993, made room for him, and for a regime of his choice in Gaza. He had warred against the United States, but American diplomacy had fallen under his spell, and the years of the Clinton presidency were devoted to the delusion that the man could summon the courage to accept a practical peace.
But Arafat would do nothing of the kind. Until his death in 2004, he refrained from telling the Palestinians the harsh truths they needed to hear about the urgency of practicality and compromise. Instead, he held out the illusion that the Palestinians can have it all, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. His real constituents were in the refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria and Jordan, and among the Palestinians in Kuwait. So he peddled the dream that history’s verdict could be overturned, that the “right of return” was theirs.
There was hope that the Arafat legacy would go with him to the grave. The new Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas had been a lieutenant of Arafat’s, but there were hints of a break with the Arafat legacy. The alliance between Fatah and Hamas that Mr. Abbas has opted for put these hopes to rest. And the illusion that the U.N. can break the stalemate in the Holy Land is vintage Arafat. It was Arafat who turned up at the General Assembly in 1974 with a holster on his hip, and who proclaimed that he had come bearing a freedom fighter’s gun and an olive branch, and that it was up to the U.N. not to let the olive branch fall from his hand.
For the Palestinians there can be no escape from negotiations with Israel. The other Arabs shall not redeem Palestinian rights. They have their own burdens to bear. In this Arab Spring, this season of popular uprisings, little has been said in Tunis and Cairo and Damascus and Sanaa about Palestine.
The General Assembly may, in September, vote to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. But true Palestinian statehood requires convincing a decisive Israeli majority that statehood is a herald for normalcy in that contested land, for Arabs and Jews alike.
THE MAN WHO REALLY TORPEDOED THE PEACE PROCESS
The Third Man
Missing from the Bibi vs. Barack drama in Washington was the man who really torpedoed the peace process, Mahmoud Abbas
By Elliott Abrams
The Weekly Standard
Edition of June 6, 2011
The week of dueling speeches by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu was great political drama, but a key character was missing from the scene: Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. While Abbas was absent, it was in fact his creation on April 27 of a unity government with the terrorist group Hamas that provided the backdrop for what we saw in Washington. So an analysis of what happened last week must begin not with Bibi’s calculations or Obama’s, but those of Abbas.
Mahmoud Abbas is 76 years old and will retire from politics next year, having announced that he will not seek reelection. His tenure as chairman of both the Fatah movement and the PLO (which began when Arafat died in late 2004) has been disastrous, for he lost first the 2006 elections and then control of Gaza to Hamas. A man without charisma or great political courage, he was never a serious candidate to make the difficult compromises that a peace deal with Israel would require and then defend himself against charges of treason and betrayal. To the generous peace offer made by Ehud Olmert in 2008, Abbas responded with silence. It is true that life on the West Bank has improved considerably during his tenure as Palestinian Authority president, but he never cared much about wearing that third hat; he left such mundane matters to PA prime minister Salam Fayyad while he jetted around the world seeking support for the Great Cause.
Abbas thought his ship had come in when Barack Obama became president: Surely this man, so diffident about Israel, would deliver the Israeli diplomatic collapse the PLO needed. And sure enough, Obama’s tenure began with the hiring of George Mitchell (on Obama’s second day in office) and the demand for a total construction freeze by Israel-not only in the settlements but even in Jerusalem. Now, two years later, Mitchell is gone and Abbas has given up on Obama. In a remarkably bitter interview with Newsweek, Abbas vented his disillusionment: “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said okay, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it.”
Unwilling to make far-reaching compromises himself, and now convinced Obama would not force deep concessions on the Israelis, Abbas decided to secure his legacy a different way: through a façade of national unity. Sure, he lost the elections to Hamas and they have Gaza, but with this unity deal there would be new elections next year and-on paper, anyway-the split would be over and the Palestinian family together again. And he would deliver more: United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state through a vote to admit it to membership. So Abbas would leave office with honor. To be sure, he would always be a transitional figure between Arafat and whatever came next, and neither peace nor real statehood would be any closer. But in the realm of symbolism and rhetoric where Palestinian political life has always been lived, he could say he had never yielded an inch to the Zionists.
These developments left both Netanyahu and Obama high and dry. For Netanyahu, the Hamas deal not only meant that no negotiations were possible but also endangered the existing cooperation with the Palestinian Authority. The West Bank economy had (with some Israeli help) improved steadily in the last few years, and the new American-trained PA police worked closely with Israel against terrorism-and especially against Hamas. It was possible to see some ways forward: handing control of more West Bank territory to the PA, strengthening PA security forces, watching a Palestinian state develop on the ground under Fayyad’s pragmatic leadership. Now that approach was gone.
And so was Obama’s push for a negotiation. The incoherence of U.S. policy is summed up in this passage from Obama’s AIPAC speech: “We know that peace demands a partner-which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist....But the march to isolate Israel internationally-and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations-will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.” So Israel cannot be expected to negotiate and it must start negotiating.
That is where the president stands after two years of involvement in Middle East peacemaking, and his problems are largely of his own making. Israel and the Palestinians had been at the table together for decades until the Obama/Mitchell/Rahm Emanuel decision to demand a total end to Israeli construction froze not the settlements but the diplomacy. Previous presidents-both Clinton and George W. Bush-had managed to gain the confidence of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, while Obama is now mistrusted on all sides.
We would not be where we are had all three men-Abbas, Netanyahu, Obama-not given up on each other, a striking failure in American diplomacy. The president’s inability to get it right was visible this past week. The pair of speeches must have been the products of intense effort at the White House, yet the errors made in his Thursday speech at the State Department required quick fixes on Sunday at AIPAC. He forgot on Thursday to mention the three “Quartet Principles” that are the preconditions for Hamas participation in government and in negotiations: abandon violence, acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, respect all previous Israel-PLO agreements. So those were added to the Sunday speech. His Thursday formulation suggested that the “1967 lines” would be Israel’s new border with some swaps agreed to by the Palestinians. Owing to protests, he had to add in his Sunday AIPAC speech that the parties “will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967” - while complaining that he had been deliberately misunderstood.
Meanwhile his mistreatment of the visiting Netanyahu can only have deepened the latter’s belief that Obama was irretrievably hostile. While the diplomatic niceties were observed this time (Netanyahu got to stay in Blair House, and there were plenty of photos and a TV session in the Oval Office), the fact remains that Obama gave a major Middle East speech the day before Netanyahu arrived. The message was clear: I have no interest in what you are saying and will make my views plain even before we exchange one word. Worse yet was the lack of any advance notice. The Israelis had been told days before that the Obama speech would cover the Arab Spring and say little about them, and were given only a couple of hours’ notice that, on the contrary, the president would make a significant policy statement that contradicted Israeli views. They felt-and they were-blindsided. In the Clinton and Bush administrations such major policy statements were preceded by weeks of consultations, and when a president breaks that pattern it is a deliberate and powerful message. This is the explanation for the brief tutorial in Israeli security concerns that Netanyahu held Friday in the Oval Office: The gloves were off, but it was Obama who took them off first.
The president jetted off to Europe after his AIPAC speech, and after his own speech to Congress Netanyahu went home. Washington is celebrating Memorial Day weekend, entering the summer, and watching the Republicans begin to figure out who will be their candidate in 2012. But now what? After the four dueling speeches, is there an American policy? What remains of the “peace process”?
For Abbas, the path forward seems clear. Get the U.N. vote in September; hold local elections this fall; hold parliamentary and presidential elections next year; and then retire. This requires holding the Hamas-Fatah deal together, no easy task: The last such deal, in 2007, failed in a few months and led to the Hamas coup in Gaza. But this one may last longer because it is less ambitious. It is an agreement to have an election next year, while Hamas keeps Gaza and Fatah keeps the West Bank for the interim. Fatah and Hamas hate each other no less today than they did yesterday. Their leaders have decided that the right formula for the coming year is patriotic speeches plus a U.N. vote plus an election, and in part this is their reaction to the “Arab Spring.” They need to have elections because every Arab state seems to be doing so now, and they need to keep public dissatisfaction focused on Israel lest people decide that their own rulers are the problem.
But Abbas is in fact creating a very dangerous situation with these maneuvers. As noted, they bring into question the growing security cooperation in the West Bank. Will a PA leadership now doing deals with Hamas be willing to continue acting against it on the ground? What is to become of the American-trained police forces when Prime Minister Fayyad, who has provided leadership to them, leaves office this summer in accordance with the Hamas-Fatah agreement?
Moreover, the deal with Hamas will allow it to enter next year’s internal elections in the PLO, the body responsible for negotiating with Israel, while it also enters the PA parliamentary and presidential elections. Hamas victories would mean permanent confrontation with Israel. Once again-as with the emergence of Haj Amin al-Husseini in the 1920s and Yasser Arafat in the 1960s-Palestinians would be led by extremists and any hope of peace would be gone. Hamas and Fatah, moreover, are likely to agree on the immediate tactic of “nonviolent demonstrations” on Israel’s borders after the U.N. vote, and these could deteriorate quickly into violent confrontations. Abbas will retire happily to Amman or Doha (where he keeps homes) next year, but his true legacy to his people may be disaster.
As for President Obama, his two speeches leave one wondering about his true intentions this year and next. Perhaps the speeches were meant to set up a certain distance from Israel and enable easier negotiations with the Europeans over the coming U.N. vote. Perhaps the president has concluded that nothing good will happen in the coming year, so he meant to say his piece, stake out what he no doubt viewed as a balanced, middle-of-the-road position, and park the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a year and a half until he can get himself reelected. Surely the president knows that at least until after the Palestinian elections no negotiations are possible, but perhaps he hopes that by 2013 Hamas might have been defeated-or Netanyahu might have been ousted in Israel’s elections. Obama’s brief experiment in laying out an American position-”The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps”-brought him immediate trouble and necessitated a partial retraction, but may nevertheless be a foretaste of what is to come after reelection. He may lay out an American plan and push the parties to accept it or at least negotiate from it. If the Israelis refuse, the bitterness in today’s relations between the White House and the prime minister’s office will only deepen in an Obama second term.
All of this makes life harder for Israel and in a way easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu. When a deeply sympathetic American president asks for concessions and compromises and appears able to cajole some from the Palestinians, which was the Clinton/Rabin and Bush/Sharon combination, Israel must respond. When a president most Israelis regard as hostile pushes them while the PLO leadership turns to Hamas, most Israelis will back Netanyahu’s tough response. “The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” Netanyahu said after the Hamas-Fatah deal was announced. Few Israelis will disagree. Netanyahu’s plans for the coming year and a half may include an early election, to capitalize on popular support for his tough defense of Israeli security in his Washington speeches. With the future of Egypt and Syria uncertain, rumblings in Jordan, and Hamas entering the PA and PLO elections next year, a policy of hanging tough may be Bibi’s best bet-and Israel’s as well. In addition to the considerable danger that Palestinian demonstrations after the September U.N. vote will turn violent, that vote may also bring further energy to the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” movement in Europe-perhaps even a greater danger to an Israel dependent on its export economy.
What strengthens Bibi’s hand is not that the prospects Israel faces are good, but that no alternatives appear real to most Israelis. Negotiations are out for now, and unilateral concessions in the West Bank cannot be made when the future roles of Hamas and the PA security forces are unknown. Anyway, Israelis will think, who knows what the future will bring? Maybe Obama will not be reelected. Maybe Hamas will lose the election, or the unity deal will collapse. Maybe Syria’s Assad will fall. Maybe events in Egypt or Jordan will change the American outlook. Israel faced worse situations in 1948 and ‘56 and ‘67 and ‘73, and it survived. On May 19, while Netanyahu visited Washington, Jews there and throughout the world read the Torah portion completing the book of Leviticus and, according to tradition, stood and chanted the words from the book of Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage.” That may sum up Israeli policy for 2011 and 2012.
If there was a symbolic moment that epitomized the events of this past week and the months that preceded it, it was not the president’s partial retractions before AIPAC. Nor was it Netanyahu’s superb speech to and rapturous reception by a joint session of Congress while the president was absent from the city. It was instead in Austin, Texas, where Salam Fayyad attended his son’s graduation from the University of Texas. While there, Fayyad suffered a mild heart attack. Well might his heart fail as he watched the direction of Palestinian politics and the continuing policy failures in Washington. Fayyad served as finance minister for the PA after 2002 and has served as prime minister since 2007, but will now be leaving office. Whether the institutions he helped build and the practices he imposed-from police forces fighting terror to public finances free of corruption-will survive is much in doubt. It is not hard to picture him in a hospital room in Texas, wondering if the effort to build a decent Palestinian state from the ground up was now to be wasted.
WHAT OBAMA DID TO ISRAEL
What Obama did to Israel
By Charles Krauthammer
May 26, 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 2 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 United Nations 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 didn’t just move the goal posts on borders. He also did so 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 then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 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 United Nations. 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.