Obama's Schizophrenic Israel Policy

Within the span of four days, President Obama gave two entirely disjointed speeches on Israel policy.

The only constant in the two speeches was the phrase that has, as Obama put it, “received the lion’s share of the attention”  – “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” President Obama spent the rest of his second speech on Israel to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) backtracking and trying to explain away exactly what that means.

President Obama now claims that “what ‘1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps’ means” is that the result will be “a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.” In other words, he is calling for Israel to return to the 1967 lines that will look nothing like the 1967 lines. Make sense? No.

And not much else makes sense about Obama’s Israel policy.  In his first speech, aimed at the Muslim world,  President Obama asked, “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?”  He answered this question with an irreconcilable two-step process:  First, Israel should negotiate with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority from a point of weakness by beginning with the indefensible 1967 armistice lines,  and then, “Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

As for “mutually agreed upon swaps,” if Israel must begin negotiations by giving up huge plots of land by returning to the 1967 armistice lines, then what is left for them to “swap” with the Palestinians?  The 1967 lines already assume split control of Jerusalem, and at one point Israel would be only nine miles wide.   The 1967 armistice lines are indefensible, as is Obama’s plan.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, speaking to a joint session of Congress, made it clear that Jerusalem was nonnegotiable declaring that, “Jerusalem will never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united Capital of Israel.”  The statement was met with one of the 29  bipartisan standing ovations Netanyahu received during his speech.

What President Obama failed to address before AIPAC is probably the most disturbing aspect of his initial Middle East speech.  Obama used a word that was not lost on the Muslim world, he repeatedly referred to Israel as a force of “occupation”  on Palestinian lands, something the terrorist group Hamas and leftist activists have said about Israel for years.

Netanyahu rejected the loaded term used by President Obama at the joint session Tuesday saying, “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We’re not the British in India. We’re not the Belgians in [the] Congo. This is the land of our forefathers.” 

If President Obama thought he could convince Hamas, a terrorist organization, to recognize Israel and come to the negotiating table by using some of its lingo and playing hardball with Israel, he was wrong, and Hamas has said as much.   In fact, since Obama’s speeches, Hamas has said  that the 1967 lines are not enough – “Why won’t we talk about the 1948 borders?”  In other words, Hamas, who is now an equal partner in the Palestinian Authority, will not be satisfied until Israel, which re-achieved statehood in 1948, is no more.

The world would benefit from President Obama recognizing about Israel exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu told Congress, “In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.” 

It’s a fool’s errand to think that negotiating with terrorists will produce a workable peace in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, the great chasm between President Obama’s two Israel speeches in the past week does not give much hope that he understands this point.

Israel is our only stable ally in the Middle East and President Obama has undermined the Jewish State’s international reputation. As Netanyahu said, “You don’t need to do nation-building in Israel: We’ve already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel, we’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to Israel, we defend ourselves.” 

All we, the United States, need to do publically is support Israel. Our differences can be handled privately; the way two good friends would handle a dispute.