“President Obama has announced his support of returning Israel and Palestine to the pre-war borders of 1967.”
— new Web ad by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Bachmann, a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, has posted an ad on the Web accusing President Obama of having “betrayed Israel” with his statement on the 1967 boundaries of Israel during his speech last week on the Middle East.
Obama’s comments attracted wide attention, because as we documented last week, U.S. presidents have generally shied away from mentioning the 1967 boundaries. We ruled that in diplomatic terms his statement was “a major shift,” largely because he said something publicly that had only been acknowledged privately or in code. But did he really say Israel should return to those boundaries?
Here’s what Obama actually said in his speech: “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.”
And, after a few days of controversy, here is how Obama explained what he meant in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday:
It was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now. 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. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. 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.
It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two people: 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 in joined self-determination, mutual recognition and peace.
It seemed pretty clear the first time — when Obama said “mutually agreed swaps” — that he did not suggest Israel needed to return to the 1967 boundaries. But his statement on May 22 made that point even clearer.
Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may have a rocky relationship with Obama but he approvingly quoted Obama on the 1967 issue during his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday: “Now the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We'll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.”
Was Bachmann not in attendance?
The Pinocchio Test
One can certainly make the case that Obama diplomatically mishandled this issue in recent days. But Bachmann has taken a semblance of his words and twisted them far beyond their original meaning. Obama said the 1967 lines should be the basis for negotiations — not that they would form the final border, as her ad claims.
Since Bachmann is a member of Congress, her ad is especially egregious because the Israeli prime minister just one day ago cited positively the same Obama comment that she now condemns.