President Obama’s desire to give Hamas a big chunk of Israel is not going over well with the Israelis. Members of the Israeli parliament called Obama’s plan “a landmine with pretty wrapping,” and said Obama has “adopted the staged plan for Israel’s destruction of Yasser Arafat,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
For their part, the Post editors wondered if Obama was “channeling Captain Ahab” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Describing the ornate Ben Franklin Room of the State Department where Obama gave his speech as “a significant venue for inaction rather than action,” they wondered if the President was aware of its history, or even bothers to read the newspapers: “If the Palestinian unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, the chaos at the Israeli borders Sunday, and Netanyahu’s own careful political maneuverings weren’t enough to tell him that his political capital would be gravely sapped in this direction, the trappings of the room he stood in Thursday surely should have.”
“Those borders are not defensible,” growled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, en route to a White House meeting with President Obama today. Netanyahu has been far more personally involved in border security than Obama. Let’s just say he’s done more than give juvenile speeches about alligator-filled moats, and knows an indefensible border when he sees one.
“Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement. “Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004.” Those commitments “relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines.”
The Palestinians weren’t entirely happy with the speech, either. A post from the Bernama news agency of Maylaysia quotes Palestinians disappointed that Obama didn’t formally recognize the Hamas-Fatah unity government in his speech. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zhori “said Obama’s speech is an indication of the failure of U.S. policy in the region, and shows its biased stance on the Israeli occupation.” If that seems like a puzzling reaction, bear in mind that Barack Obama may be the only person on Earth who believes only the ground on the “wrong” side of those 1967 borders is viewed as “occupied” by Hamas.
Various Palestinians are also reportedly “frustrated” because “Obama insisted that Hamas, which does not recognize Israel, still advocates the use of terror.” Where would he get a crazy idea like that?
Other Palestinians recognize the value of the tremendous political advantage Obama has given them. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said he appreciates the “efforts being exerted by President Obama with the objective of resuming the permanent status talks in the hope of reaching a final status agreement on all core issues, including Jerusalem and refugees and within a specified time frame.” Obama just offered them half of Jerusalem, including some of Christianity and Judaism’s holiest sites, but they want the whole thing, and they have every reason to think they can get it.
A Palestinian political scientist named Khalil Shikaki crowed, “Definitely this is a point which Netanyahu, if he didn’t intend to address in his trip [to Washington], is now being forced to do so. And if he doesn’t, he will find himself further isolated.” The stuff, old-fashioned kind of American thinking would have involved isolating the people who shoot rockets into school buses, but Barack Obama thinks outside the box.
I’ve got a question for the White House about this “land for peace” plan: Suppose we go ahead with Obama’s plan, carve a little Palestinian state out of Israel, and insist all of the fabled Palestinian “refugees” pile into it. Based on their past performance, how well do you think Hamas and Fatah will manage the needs of that densely packed, desperately poor population? And when their government turns into an epic disaster, who do you suppose they’ll tell their angry people to blame?
Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama today should be interesting. I wonder if Obama will ever try sandbagging a Palestinian representative with shocking announcements that undercut the Hamas position, the day before a big meeting. I would suggest Netanyahu bring a map and some history books to the White House. Also, if a nervous man with a French accent calls from New York and inquires about open seats on the Prime Minister’s return flight to Israel, hang up immediately.