President Obama delivered a speech at the United Nations that was one part moral equivalence and one part delusion.
The moral equivalence came on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He did say: “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.”
But the president did not remind the Palestinians that U.N. obligations prohibit the Palestinian Authority from unilateral actions. And what is worse, he played the neutral, straining to leave out inconvenient truths:
One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It’s well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.
That part about the basis being “well known” is incorrect, of course. The PA isn’t interested in giving up the right of return, and Israel isn’t interested to leaving the Jordan Valley without a military presence. The gap is huge. But you’d never know from Obama that the PA had walked out of negotiations.
The remainder of the speech seemed to be addressed at another planet. On the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the president could muster only this:
The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful. It has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South. There’s a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.
He doesn’t even both to raise the military option or throw in the “unacceptable” platitude. They are breathing easy in Tehran.
As for the “Arab Spring,” Obama seemed blithely unaware or unconcerned about the ominous turn it has taken. After reciting the list of revolutions, he announced: “We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically. But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly. Those rights depend on elections that are free and fair; on governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; justice that is equal and fair. That is what our people deserve. Those are the elements of peace that can last.”
But what if those governments include terrorist elements? Or violate international obligations? In essence, he is saying he hopes it all works out.
This was not Obama’s worst speech, but it is representative of his vague and unsuccessful policies. He’s becoming a bit player both at home and abroad. Whatever your partisan views, it’s bad for the United States and bad for the West to have a president so inept and unforceful.