Who never said a foolish thing,
Or ever did a wise one.
Following a theme that I’ve been seeing of comparing Obama to poetic figures, Walter Russell Meade referenced a poem by the Earl of Rochester, written about King Charles II of England, but ascribed here to Obama and his Middle East policy. This is in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s astounding speech to a joint session of US Congress, which was met with an almost unbelievable number of standing ovations and a great deal of support. As Meade says:
Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum. The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla — or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.
The speech once again showed that whatever you make of his views, methods and stances, Bibi is a very smooth political operator and an outstanding orator. Obama’s speeches have made his career, so the fact that an (albeit US-educated) Israeli can wipe the floor with him in his home turf says a hell of a lot.
Here are the full video and transcript:
Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to his response to the heckler – brilliant and quick, with some of the loudest applause of the whole speech.
You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can have protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy. So as we share the hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran that they’ll be able to do what that young woman just did — I think she’s young; I couldn’t see quite that far…we must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out, as they were in Tehran in 1979
It is very difficult to argue with most of Bibi’s stances after watching that in full. He also did make some unprecedented concessions. He not only unequivocally reaffirmed his belief in the two-state solution, but he actually recognised the Palestinian narrative.
No distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy where their creativity and initiative can flourish. Now, we’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years, the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves.
And then he argued for his demand that the Palestinian Authority recognise Israel as a Jewish state, with a very strong argument.
And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And, worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy the Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.
My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people — and I told you it wasn’t easy for me. I stood before my people, and I said, ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end, that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace
I actually think that he was right on the mark here. If the Israelis are willing to accept the Palestinian narrative, accept their claim to the land, treat them as the nation that they define themselves as and affirm their right to their national homeland, why is it so unreasonable that they reciprocate?
Of course it is difficult for them to accept the Zionist narrative, but if they reject everything that 5 million Israelis – and probably another 10 million Zionist Jews in the Diaspora – define themselves by, how can there ever be a peace agreement? How could they ever compromise on anything pragmatically if they can’t make that ideological concession?
He even addressed the refugee issue very well – and he is absolutely right. In the same way that everyone must recognise that the borders will not be identical to pre-1967, not every descendant of Palestinian refugees will be able to move back to the precise town or village where their ancestors lived; but a just solution can be found through other means.
We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous. All of you, and the president, too, have referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as you’ve been talking about a future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people.
Well, Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the one and only Jewish state. And Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state.
And here’s what this means: It means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.
The issues that are controversial are the lines he drew on the map – specifically, refusing to leave the Jordan valley or to divide Jerusalem.
But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it’s therefore vital, absolutely vital, that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it’s vital, absolutely vital, that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.
Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they’re necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. Because in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow. And, my friends, when I say “Tomorrow,” I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean tomorrow.
…Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites, has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know this is a difficult issue for Palestinians, but I believe that with creativity and with goodwill, a solution can be found. So this is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well that in the Middle East the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend. So peace must be anchored in security.
That said, I would like to believe that if negotiations were happening, these issues could be addressed. Bibi is unique at the moment in terms of all parties involved in the negotiations in that he alone has laid-out exactly where his lines are and what he wants. Neither Obama nor Abbas and (definitely not Hamas) have stated what it is exactly that they hope to achieve and what their vision of a solution is. So long as Abbas refuses to sit down at the table, it is hard to see how that will ever happen.
It’s true that Bibi too is now refusing to sit down, as a result of the unity agreement with Hamas, but again, how could he negotiate with Hamas? What hope could there possibly be? Hamas see it their God-given duty to kill Jews, they think that if they kill a Jew they go to heaven and if they are killed by a Jew they go to heaven. They believe that Jews controlling a state on what should be Muslim land is a crime against God and that violence is the only way to address this. And yet Israel is supposed to negotiate with them?