Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Monday 23 May 2011

Tough Takes on Obama

Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) today, President Obama clarified his position on the 1967 lines:

 Notwithstanding periodic outbursts of applause, as Jennifer Rubin explains in "Obama double downs at AIPAC," her astute Washington Post article on the speech, its reception, and its deficiencies, there were, very significantly, boos at a particular juncture.

She points out:
'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.”'
Read all of her piece here:

The following article, entitled Palestine - Obama sinks America's Integrity and Reputation, is by the always incisive David Singer, a Sydney lawyer and founder of the International Analysts' Network.  It comes via the antipodean J-Wire service.  I've posted the video at the end before, but it's as well to remind people again how narrow and vulnerable Israel was prior to its stunning victory in the Six Day War; not for nothing did Abba Eban term its pre-war boundaries the "Auschwitz borders".

Writes David Singer:

'Remarks made by President Obama at the State Department in Washington on 19 May indicate he is prepared to honour some – but not all – commitments made to Israel by former American President George W Bush in his letter to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon on 14 April 2004 (the Bush Letter).

President Obama first stressed the following points:
1. 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.
2. 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.
President Obama was indeed confirming America’s written commitment to Israel in the Bush Letter
"The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state."
This commitment – made now by two American Presidents to Israel – has been repeatedly rejected by the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, the PLO, Hamas and the Arab League. But it is a commitment that America has no intention of abandoning.

However President Obama ignored another commitment in the Bush Letter when he then told his State Department audience:
"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.. "
This statement is contrary to the following statement appearing in the Bush Letter:
"As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."
Bush had clearly committed to back Israel’s position that sovereignty in 100% of the land occupied in the Six Day War by Israel would not be ceded in any ultimate peace settlement.

Obama was obviously trying to wheedle his way out of this Bush commitment by some semantic toe stepping. – suggesting that
1. any loss of such territory to Israel could be compensated by an equivalent swap of existing Israeli sovereign territory and
2. this swap could still lead to the creation of secure borders for Israel.
Israel was certainly not prepared to let Obama back peddle from the terms of the Bush Letter .

The Israeli rebuttal was swift and came just one day later when Israel’s Prime Minster told President Obama during a meeting at the White House:

"I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years."
Those concerned to ensure that American presidential commitments made to third parties are honored and upheld by their successors should be as equally worried as Israel at Obama’s apparent attempt to breach such a fundamental presidential commitment.

The price Israel paid to secure the Bush Letter was its decision to unilaterally disengage from Gaza in 2005. This disengagement exposed Israel’s civilian population living in its southern region to the threat of continuing indiscriminate missile and terrorist attacks from Gaza without any Israeli military forces being retained in Gaza any more to prevent, defend and respond to any such attacks. 8000 Israeli citizens were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses established in Gaza over the preceding 38 years.

This is indeed what happened after Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 – with disastrous consequences for both civilian populations in Israel and Gaza and for those 8000 Israelis who had evacuated Gaza..

Jeopardizing its security on the entire Gaza front required Israel to be absolutely assured of American commitment to Israel’s security on the West Bank front. That assessment saw the refusal to cede sovereignty in 100% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as being non-negotiable.

America’s decision to stand by and support Israel on this fundamental territorial issue is critical.

Israel’s Government in 2008 had unsuccessfully explored the possibility of land swaps with the Palestinian Authority – but those negotiations ended inconclusively and are now in total lock down.

Exploring land swaps might again be considered by Israel in future negotiations. The current Israeli Government shows no intention to do so. But that will have to be Israel’s decision – not America’s.

America’s view – now or later – regarding land swaps is irrelevant under the Bush Letter.

President Obama’s statement will no doubt be seen by some to indicate a shift in America’s position – perhaps made in an attempt to induce the Palestinian Authority to resume the stalled negotiations with Israel.

Obama’s position will be viewed by Israel and its supporters as a shift that does no honor to America and badly damages its reputation and integrity.

The Bush commitment was made for an Israeli commitment that has resulted in the death, injury and traumatisation of tens of thousands of Israelis.

Obama’s attempt to minimize or modify that commitment in any way must be firmly and publicly resisted by Israel and its supporters in the American Congress – which had voted overwhelmingly in favor of President Bush signing the Bush Letter in the first place.

Doing so will certainly help restore America’s reputation for honesty and transparency in its dealings with third parties – and for standing by and remaining staunchly committed to the decisions of its presidents.

Aren’t these indeed cardinal democratic principles which Obama – as leader of the world’s leading democracy – is sworn to uphold?'


  1. As brilliant an analysis as we're likely to find - another must-read from the stupendous Melanie:

  2. And here's Dore Gold in the Wall Street Journal (h/t CAMERA Snapshots blog):

    Remember that before the Six Day War, those lines in the West Bank only demarcated where five Arab armies were halted in their invasion of the nascent state of Israel 19 years earlier. Legally, they formed only an armistice line, not a recognized international border. No Palestinian state ever existed that could have claimed these prewar lines. Jordan occupied the West Bank after the Arab invasion, but its claim to sovereignty was not recognized by any U.N. members except Pakistan and the U.K. As Jordan's U.N. ambassador said before the war, the old armistice lines "did not fix boundaries." Thus the central thrust of Arab-Israeli diplomacy for more than 40 years was that Israel must negotiate an agreed border with its Arab neighbors.
    The cornerstone of all postwar diplomacy was U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967. It did not demand that Israel pull back completely to the pre-1967 lines. Its withdrawal clause only called on Israel to withdraw "from territories," not from all territories. Britain's foreign secretary at the time, George Brown, later underlined the distinction: "The proposal said 'Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,' and not from 'the' territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories."


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