(Note, May 22: Be sure to see Charles T.’s comment
on the dual question of Jewish refugees and Arab refugees.)
Yesterday I said that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have canceled his trip to the U.S. and announced he would not deal with Obama so long as Obama was taking an anti-Israel position.
But what Netanyahu did was far better. By speaking directly to Obama before the television cameras, clearly stating the facts which Obama, in his liberal, pro-Muslim fantasy world, doesn’t get or pretends not to see, he eviscerated Obama’s position and even Obama himself, though, it must be said, he did so very politely. He was like a high school guidance counselor or history teacher patiently, thoughtfully, and very firmly explaining reality to an immature, arrogant boy.
It’s hard to see how, after this, there is anything left of Obama’s demand that Israel to return to the ‘67 borders, which Dan Friedman has turned around and satirized thus:
Netanyahu Urges U.S. Return To 1845 Borders
Here is the video:
And here is the transcript:
Thank you, Mr. President.
- end of initial entry -
Well, Mr. President—and first, I want to thank you and the first lady for the gracious hospitality that you’ve shown me, my wife and our entire delegation. We have an enduring bond of friendship between our two countries. And I appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting with you after your important speech yesterday.
We share your hope and your vision for the spread of democracy in the Middle East. I appreciate the fact that you reaffirmed once again now and in our conversation, and in actual deed, the commitment to Israel’s security. We value your efforts to advance the peace process.
This is something that we want to have accomplished. Israel wants peace. I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure. And I think that the—we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only—the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakable facts.
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. Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of 9 miles wide—half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive from them.
So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.
I discussed this with the president. I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make.
The second is—echoes something the president just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas. Hamas, as the president said, is a terrorist organization, committed to Israel’s destruction. It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children. It’s recently fired an antitank rocket at a—at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy.
And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of Bin Laden. So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.
I think President Abbas has a simple choice. He has to decide if he negotiates or keeps his pact with Hamas, or makes peace with Israel. And I—I can only express what I said to you just now: that I hope he makes the choice, the right choice, of choosing peace with Israel.
But a third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state but certainly not in the borders of Israel. The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems, Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands. Now tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel: accept the grandchildren, really, and the great-grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state.
So that’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly, it’s not going to happen.
The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved. It can be resolved. And it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in Palestinian state. That’s a real possibility. But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.
The president and I discussed all of these issues, and I think we may have differences here and there, but I think there is an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, a peace that is defensible.
Mr. President, you are the—you are the leader of a great people, the American people. And I am the leader of a much smaller people. The —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: A great people.
PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: It’s a great people too. It’s the ancient nation of Israel. And you know, we’ve been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions.
But I can say that even at the dearth of—even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of re-establishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel. And now it falls on my shoulders as the prime minister of Israel at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival.
I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error and because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.
So, in the coming days and weeks and months, I intend to work with you to seek a peace that will address our security concerns, seek a genuine recognition that we wish from our Palestinian neighbors and give a better future for Israel and for the entire region. And I thank you for the opportunity to exchange our views and to work together for this common end.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Charles T. writes:
Bravo! If only the Repubs / Conservatives / Tea Partiers could come up with a statesman like Netanyahu. I used the word statesman deliberately. A statesman knows how to practice statecraft, which is exactly what Netanyahu did with the U.S. President. Politicians know how to dodge and lie very well.
Netanyahu essentially told the U.S. president:
— that Israel would not budge on the borders.
— that compromise on the borders would pose an existential threat to Israel and her people. The life of the Israeli nation is at stake here.
He also made the very salient point that during the 1948 war, there were dual expulsions of Jews from Arab countries and Arabic peoples from Israel. Israel assimilated the Jewish refugees, while the surrounding Arab nations continue to resist assimilating the “Palestinians” into their nations.
This point, this dual expulsion and the non-reciprocal assimilation that Mr. Netanyahu made so clear in his speech, is one of the most important points in this whole debate. Yet, the mainstream media never presents this as clearly as Netanyahu did so well in the video clip.
Joan Peters makes the same points and expands on them very well in her book “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine.” I purchased and read this book in the mid 1980s as I was seeking more information on the conflict.
I want to share a lengthy quote from her book which is based on her own research and observation. As she toured the refugee camps, she was concerned for the rights of these people.
She then explains:
From that starting point, I came to learn that the Arabs weren’t the only unfortunates who fled from their homes at the time of the Arab-Israeli War of Independence. Because I’d assumed that Arab refugees from Israel were the “Middle East refugees,” I was startled to find that, also around 1948, whole Jewish populations from numerous Arab countries had been forced to flee as refugees to Israel and elsewhere in the world.
The next paragraph continues:
Though I read through stacks of documents concerning the refugees, looking for official consideration of these “other,” Jewish ” Middle East refugees,” I found little or none. But in the process, some other key beliefs in the popular (and my personal) understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict were shaken. For example, while I was examining United Nations data from 1948 onward, a seemingly casual alteration of the definition of what constitutes an Arab “refugee” from Israel caught my attention. I passed it by at first, and only returned to it after investigation of refugee transfers in other parts of the world had led me to note what the general definition of refugee eligibility was. In other cases the more or less universally used description of eligibility included those people who were forced to leave “permanent” or “habitual” homes. In the case of the Arab refugees, however, the definition had been broadened to include as “refugees” any persons who had been in “Palestine for only two years before Israel’s statehood in 1948.
This alteration of the definition of an Arab refugee is important because: “The two situations were not compatible: what the altered “two years-presence” definition of an “Arab refugee” implied was direct contradiction of assumed historical factors that are the very foundation of the current Arab claim of “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to their homeland for a thousand” or “two thousand years.”
(The above is from the 1984 edition, chapter 1, pages 4-5. All emphasis is Peters’s.)
The claim of perpetual “Palestinian” habitation in the geographical area of the new Israeli state did not match the revised definition of “Arab refugee.”
The “Palestinian refugee” problem has been used as a battering ram against the Israeli state for decades. Netanyahu understands this. He explained this publicly. In fact, this is the only time I have ever seen it explained in the media. I only remember one other person, from past conversations, who saw it this way as well.
The Arab nations have no love for the “Palestinians” and do not hesitate to use them as political pawns in a bloody, deadly game that is designed to destroy Israel. The refugee situation still continues to be a pivotal issue in this conflict and it will not go away easily.
Netanyahu understands the life of his nation and his people are in perpetual danger in the Middle East.
Allan Wall writes:
Regarding the Netanyahu remarks, it was good he mentioned the Jewish refugees from Arab countries in the late ’40s and early ’50s. Almost nobody talks about them today. For that matter, you don’t hear much about the millions of refugees in Europe at the end of WWII, and the millions of refugees in the Indian Subcontinent during its independence/partition. That’s because all these other groups were absorbed and assimilated into the countries to which they went. Only the Palestinians are still considered “refugees” more than 60 years later.
In reply to both Charles and Allan, it seems to me that this point—that Israel absorbed Jewish refugees while the Arab countries refused to absorb the “Palestinian” refugees—used to be made frequently by Israel’s defenders, but hasn’t been made often in more recent years. I would say that it’s both Oslo and the Bush democracy policy—and the concomittant loss of the will and ability to make telling arguments in Israel’s behalf, both in Israel and in the U.S.—that marks the change.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 21, 2011 12:58 PM | Send