Well, Obama gave his long-awaited speech last night and I finally have a minute to write about it. He very movingly said that America supports democracy, without saying how; denounced Assad and Syria, without announcing how to take the regime down (aside from the sanctions the US just passed); similarly handled Iran and Bahrain and then spoke about Libya without changing the policy. Then he waxed lyrical about democracy for a while, then a little bit about Palestine, opposing unilateral statehood, all good…
But then, he dropped this bombshell:
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. 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. We believe 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 full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
OH-MY-GOD!!! NO HE DID NOT JUST SAY THAT!!!
What’s that you say? Not a big deal? This has been the US policy for at least a decade? Well I’ll have you know that he did not re-affirm Bush’s commitment that the swaps he mentioned would cover the areas that they would most logically cover (i.e. the ones just over the border, where all the settlers are).
Nope, that crazy old dude in America who reckons the world will end tomorrow is pretty much right. We may as well abandon hope right now. I mean, just look at Bibi’s response:
Statement by PM Netanyahu on address by US President Obama 19-May-2011
Among other things, those commitments [that Obama should re-affirm] relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and whichwould leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.
…Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace
But that’s nothing, check what his fellow Likkudniks are saying (well, at least one Likkud media-whore).
Danon: Obama adopted Arafat’s plan for Israe… JPost – Headlines
Likud MK Danny Danon on Thursday said that “Barack Hussein Obama adopted the staged plan for Israel’s destruction of Yasser Arafat, and he is trying to force it on our prime minister,”
Meanwhile, the PA have called an emergency meeting, because apparently the weeks that Obama has been hyping this speech up as a radical re-definition of his Middle East policy wasn’t enough to make them think “hey, this might be important, maybe we should arrange a meeting around that time.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas…will convene “emergency” talks with Palestinian and Arab officials to consider further steps.
Even Allan Dershowitz figured that it was a “serious mistake”:
President Barack Obama should be commended for his emphasis on Israel’s security and his concern about Hamas joining the Palestinian Authority without renouncing its violent charter. But he made one serious mistake that tilts the balance against Israel in any future negotiations. Without insisting that the Palestinians give up their absurd claim to have millions of supposed refugees “return” to Israel as a matter of right, he insisted that Israel must surrender all of the areas captured in its defensive war of 1967, subject only to land swaps.
In fact, according to some Republican Presidential hopefuls, it was just plain dangerous (link below):
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said… “This, at a time when the Palestinian Authority and Hamas just forged a new alliance. The current Administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
And Tim Pawlenty, another GOP presidential candidate, called the proposal to return to 1967 lines a “mistaken and very dangerous demand.
But the cake was most definitely taken by potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” Romney said. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”
Hear that? Under a bus! Kind of like that bus that Hamas fired a rocket at recently.
But that’s still not the most bizarre thing that has happened around this whole speech. Want to know what’s really pointing us toward that apocalypse? Well, I figured that the world would end before these people agreed with each other:
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama’s major Mideast policy speech was disappointing, telling Al Jazeera television that the U.S. president did not propose anything new.
I’m amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel’s 1967 borders should define — with land-swaps — the borders of a Palestinian state. I’m feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years.
Yup, you heard it here first. Jeffrey Goldberg is siding with Hamas over Netanyahu. I expect hellfire to start raining any second now.
So where do I sit? Somewhere around Dershowitz probably. Israel needs to face-up to the fact that it will have to give away the West Bank at some point in the near future. That said, Palestinians REALLY need to face-up to the fact that they are not all going to go back to wherever their grandparents lived in the early 1940’s. They should start pursuing Israel in court for compensation before their claims become impossible to prove and they need to start thinking about the state that they will build once Israel is out of the West Bank and they no longer have any excuses.
Otherwise, Goldberg (but not Hamas) did raise a very good point:
Here is what Hillary Clinton said in 2009: “We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”
So really, Obama was saying nothing new. The problem with that is that he needed to say something new, that was the whole point of “re-defining his Middle East policy”. He hasn’t re-defined anything, he’s only re-iterated it. He could have written this speech 2 years ago and you wouldn’t know any difference.
This is a shame, because his policy has been flawed from the beginning. As Dershowitz hinted at, he has been putting too much pressure on Israel, forcing Bibi into a corner, while being hesitant to confront the Palestinians on any of their numerous sticking points. The sad thing is that all the pieces seem to be there in front of him, but he just can’t put the picture together:
Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them — not by the United States; not by anybody else. But endless delay won’t make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve 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.
Overall, some was good, some was bad, but little was in any way surprising. This outrage everyone seems to be feeling is ridiculous, I am just sitting here a little underwhelmed.
Which, I guess, means that I agree with Hamas too. Damn…