The president just finished speaking to a packed convention room at the AIPAC policy conference. He was not booed when he entered; most stood and offered brief applause. Still, the crowd during the speech had long periods of stony silence, and audible boos were heard when he brought up his plan to base an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal on the 1967 border lines. President Obama took nothing back from his foreign policy speech on Thursday and blamed the press for any controversy. He doubled down, making this upcoming presidential election a time for choosing for friends of Israel.
Here is what he had to say about Iran:
You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. . . . Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and will stand up to groups like Hezbollah who exercise political assassination, and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.
No mention of all options being on the table. The threat of military action is now clearly not credible.
On the presence of Hamas in the unity government: “Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.” Missing was his explanation for his Thursday statement that it was now U.S. policy to base a peace deal based on 1967 lines with land swaps. He also gave no indication he would cut off aid to the unity government.
But the lowlight was his reiteration of his Thursday remarks on the 1967 lines. Oh, yes, he did. But mixed in were blame-the-media and woe-is-me sentiments that were shameful displays by a U.S. president:
There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations. But since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday.
I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
That is what I said. Now, it was my reference to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps that received the lion’s share of the attention. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.
By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.
That’s when the boos came. It is not “well known” what the deal will be because the right of return, the demand to flood Israel with the children and grandchildren of Arabs who fled during the war of aggression on the infant Jewish state, and the security arrangements are the core of the matter. Moreover, Obama misquoted himself by insisting he said the parties “will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.” No, he said it was U.S. policy that the deal would stem from the 1967 lines.
He then disingenuously said he’d always meant “it is the right and responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrifice.” And there was some pablum about the current situation not being sustainable, the U.S. commitment to Israel and Obama’s fondness for the nation whose bargaining position he has undermined.
The problems in the speech include: 1) Obama made it clear the United States is willing to give away Israel’s bargaining position for nothing in return; 2) Obama never even mentioned the right of return; 3) He did not reiterate specifically the necessity of a military presence in the Jordan Valley. You see, only Israel’s expected concessions are “well known”; 4) Israel can’t be expected to negotiate with those who want to destroy it, but negotiations need to resume; and 5) if anything Obama underscored that the United States has differences with Israel — but it’s between “friends.”
Obama must be very certain that liberal Jews will enthusiastically support him no matter what. And there is evidence he is right. Josh Block, senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and a former AIPAC spokesman, e-mailed: “It [the speech] was a strong reaffirmation of the US-Israel relationship, and was an important and positive change from his remarks on Thursday. It reflected an important continuity of US policy going back to President Johnson.”
This is the sort of spin that pro-Israel Democrats use to justify voting for Obama. But there is a reality that can’t be avoided. This president once again has proved an apt negotiator on behalf of the Palestinians and a thorn in Israel’s side. Now is a time of choosing for the American Jewish community, for Israel and for Congress. And if Obama should be reelected in 2012 one can only imagine how hostile he will become toward the Jewish state.