Obama has retreated on Israel

(Note: Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post has a completely different interpretation from what is offered here. She says Obama has “doubled down” on his Thursday speech and has yielded nothing. I think she’s missed the significance of Obama’s words quoted below.)

William Hague, foreign minister in the “Conservative” government of David Cameron, supports President Obama’s demand, made in his “Arab Spring” speech last Thursday, that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders:

“I have called for several months for the U.S. to make this their position,” Hague said, “so I’m very pleased that the president has done so.”

Poor fellow, he can be no longer pleased. The reason he can be no longer pleased is that Obama—having been lectured to before the eyes of the world on Friday by an actual adult, namely Prime Minister Netanyahu—has already backed away from his absurd position. In his speech to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) this afternoon, Obama said:

It was my reference to the 1967 lines—with mutually agreed swaps—that received the lion’s share of the attention … 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 … 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. [Italics added.]

About which Rabbi Schmuley Boteach (unfortunately that appears to be his actual name) writes: “Prime Minister Netanyahu could not have expressed it better.”

Indeed, Obama, in the phrases I’ve italicized, closely echoes some of the key statements of Netanyahu at the White House on Friday. The upshot is that Obama has retreated from his flagrantly insane position that Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders and give the rest of the territory it controls to a Palestinian state, to the moderately insane position (supported by all respectable people today, and given devout lip service by Netanyahu) that a Palestinian state should be formed through a process of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in which land in the West Bank now possessed and developed by the Israelis will be balanced by the transfer of other lands to the Palestinians.

See Boteach’s insightful explanation of Obama’s sudden turnaround:

So why did President Obama destroy his Arab democracy speech, not to mention further erode his already tenuous Jewish support, with a reference to the ‘67 borders that he has now climbed down from? Here we have a president with the eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr. but who has yet to make a single memorable speech as president aside from the moving and dignified words he offered the night bin Laden was assassinated. Last Thursday at the State department was his chance. Why did he blow it?

The president’s explanation at AIPAC was that he had no idea that the ‘67 borders line was going to be so inflammatory.

“My position has been misrepresented … If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance…. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”

But the president’s claims to naiveté are ridiculous. To his detractors, the president is many things. But he is no fool. He knew full well that being the first American president to publicly call for a return to the ‘67 lines was a bomb waiting to detonate. As the New York Times reported, Netanyahu had already had a “furious” phone call with Hillary Clinton the morning of the speech when the secretary of state phoned to inform the prime minister that the line would be included at the president’s insistence. Obama knew darn well that the demand to return to the pre-6-Day-War borders spoke directly to the Palestinian narrative of an expansionist, imperialist Israel hell-bent on swallowing up the land of a defenseless people who were peacefully growing olives and herding sheep when Israel suddenly and without provocation sent in its tanks in 1967 to expand the borders of a burgeoning empire.

So why did Obama say it? Why did he personally insist on including it?

I believe the answer to this question speaks directly to the growing mistrust that American Jewry, who gave the president 78% of its vote in 2008, has for Obama and why Democratic Jewish donor purses are closing.

Stated simply, this president has a strange obsession with Israel. Even when he’s talking about the unprecedented breakout of democracy across oppressive Arab regimes he still has to connect it to Israel. He could easily have given a stand-alone speech about Israel and mentioned the ‘67 lines there. But he believes to his core the oft-repeated falsehood that the secret to wide-ranging Middle East peace is a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and that Israeli intransigence is largely responsible for Arab anger and Middle East strife. And even as history proves him wrong and the Arabs start directing their anger against their real oppressors like Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi of Libya, and Assad of Syria, President Obama still thinks that at its root the protests are against Netanyahu of Israel.

In other words, Obama sees the Arab Spring though the filter of the “liberal script,” discussed by me in an earlier entry today. Under the terms of the script, the only way Obama can understand nonwhites/non-Westerners (in this case the Arabs in their “Arab Spring”) is that they are being oppressed by an intolerant and intransigent white non-liberal (in this case Netanyahu), from whom the generous-minded and humane liberal (in this case, Obama) must rescue them by crushing the non-liberal under his feet. The script has no connection with reality. It exists, and is endlessly re-enacted, in order to establish the virtue of liberals and their right to rule. So it doesn’t matter how many times the script is rejected or proven wrong. Liberals will keep fitting the world into that script, so long as they remain liberals.

- end of initial entry -

Nile McCoy writes:

Obama’s reiteration is right along the same lines of Bill Clinton refining the meaning of “is.” His first speech was a failure out of the gate, this second attempt is trying to save face by massaging the meaning of the first speech. Obama is a foreign policy moron if he though he could give either speech without political consequences.

Larry G. writes:

In his heart, Obama wants a fast solution to the “Jewish Problem.” That’s why he favors high-speed rail.

Ken Hechtman writes:

There’s two of your ideas I use so often I should pay you royalties. One is the unprincipled exception. The other I call Auster’s Question—“And what if they don’t?” Any time anyone uses the word “must” in the third person in a political speech, “So-and-so must do such-and-such,” I hear your voice in my head asking, “And what if they don’t?”

Obama’s speech didn’t pass the Auster’s Question test. The Israelis must withdraw to the 1967 borders … Well, yes, it would be nice, but what if they don’t?

May 23

James P. writes:

At the AIPAC speech, he said,

The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. [emphasis added]

How can Gaza and the West Bank be “contiguous” without cutting Israel in half? Why should the Palestinians have a contiguous state if Israel is not?

A contiguous Palestinian state means the death of Israel. This is not a retreat from an insane position—this is a further advance in insanity. I don’t remember him asserting this “right” in his original speech.

LA replies:

I just read this morning that it was GW Bush who first proposed a contiguous Palestinian state.

Which, by the way, fits into my above remark that Obama has retreated from the extreme Mideast insanity of his Arab Spring speech to the moderate Mideast insanity which is supported by all respectable people today.

Trent from Arizona writes:

Re this exchange:

“How can Gaza and the West Bank be ‘contiguous’ without cutting Israel in half?”

“I just read this morning that it was GW Bush who first proposed a contiguous Palestinian state.”

Y’all are assuming that Dubya knew what the word “contiguous” means.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 22, 2011 05:56 PM | Send

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