The Obama Speech

PM Netanyahu and President Obama

Many words have already been written about Obama’s speech, and there are points both in favour and against Obama’s stated position.

The points in favour are that Obama specifically said that Israel must be recognized as a Jewish state, and that the future Palestinian state must be demilitarized.  He also agreed that although the negotiations should be based on the 1967 lines, there should be land swaps where the ’67 lines are not practical or secure.

Obama also condemned Hamas and questioned how Israel should be expected to negotiate with such an entity that wishes to destroy Israel.

In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.

More importantly, he decried the Palestinian threat to declare an independent state in the UN in September:

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.

The points against, however, are way more numerous and much more dangerous.

Some quotes from the speech:

For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.

No mention of the fact that the Palestinians have 22 nations to choose from, and that the occupation was purely of their own making when they were about to attack in 1967.

Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks.

Excuse me?! Did the Israelis not enforce a settlement moratorium for 10 whole months? And did the Palestinians enter into talks during that time? They did not.  The waited until the moratorium expired and then complained that they cannot possibly talk because the Israelis are building settlements again.

The status quo is unsustainable,

I disagree. Israel has been managing the status quo quite competently until now. It may not be an ideal situation, but to say it is unsustainable is nonsense.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself.

Ah, the old demographic bogeyman. First of all, the real numbers (as shown by Yoram Ettinger), not the propaganda ones, show that the proportion of Israelis to Palestinians west of the Jordan is growing, not shrinking. Secondly, he is right that technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. All the more reason to hold on to that low-tech defense mechanism called “land’ or “territory”.  Ask any general or field officer what he thinks about holding land or giving it up to the enemy.

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.

How the 1967 lines can be secure for Israel remains a mystery – and I am pleased to say, for Netanyahu himself. More on that later.

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

These last two words are, to me, the most outrageous in the whole speech. What does Obama mean by a contiguous state? That Gaza and the West Bank should be connected? Has he ever looked at a map of Israel? How can “Palestine” be contiguous without cutting Israel into two? And if contiguity is so important, why is it OK for Israel to not be contiguous?  I have a feeling that diplomats spout these words without thinking too hard about them, just to make nice with the Arabs. However, if they did consider these words carefully, then matters are much graver for Israel.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.

Excuse me while I choke into my cornflakes. Kol Hakavod to Obama for recognizing that Israel has the right to self-defense and must be able to stop terrorism, but how exactly does he expect Israel to do that if it has to withdraw to the 1967 borders? Rely on the Palestinians you say? Those Palestinians who just united with Hamas? That Hamas recognized by the US as a terror group?

For some other viewpoints on Obama’s speech, some of which echo my own, I would recommend you read Yaacov Lozowick’s article and the one by Carl in Jerusalem at Israel Matzav.

Getting back to PM Netanyahu’s reaction to Obama’s speech, he rejected the idea of returning to the 1967 borders. Netanyahu also slammed Obama for calling for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.

Netanyahu issued a quick, bitter response on Thursday night to Obama’s landmark Middle East speech, saying that the establishment of a Palestinian state could not come “at Israel’s expense.”

“The Palestinians, and not only the US, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people,” he said.

While thanking Obama for his commitment to peace, Netanyahu said he “expects to hear from President Obama a reconfirmation of commitments to Israel from 2004 that received wide support in both houses of Congress.” This was a reference to a letter from president George W. Bush to prime minister Ariel Sharon that did not call for a return to the 1967 lines, and that recognized that any agreement would take into account the changed realities on the ground – a line interpreted by Israel to mean a recognition that it would hold on to the large settlement blocs.

The Bush commitments, said Netanyahu, “deal with Israel not being asked to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are not defensible, and which place large population centers in Judea and Samaria outside of these borders.”

Netanyahu’s statement also said that the Bush letter made clear that Palestinian refugees would be absorbed in a future Palestinian state, something that was not explicitly mentioned in Obama’s speech.

“Without a solution to the refugee issue by settling them outside of Israel, no territorial concessions will end the conflict,” the statement read.

One of Netanyahu’s aides put it more succinctly: Obama simply doesn’t “get it” regarding the realities of the Middle East.

He added:

… that the president apparently “forgot the conditions set forth by the International Quartet, which Obama himself endorsed.”

The aide added that Obama did not meet any demand set forth by the prime minister, referring to Netanyahu’s recent speech where he declared that Israel will not give up settlement blocs and maintain a military presence along the Jordan River.

Obama also did not address in his speech the issue of Palestinian recognition of the Jewish State as a pre-condition for negotiations.

An interesting background piece from the New York Times (via the Jerusalem Post and Hebrew Ynet) reports that Netanyahu and Clinton held an angry meeting about Obama’s speech before the speech was delivered, and that Obama timed his speech deliberately to preempt Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress on Tuesday.

This does not bode well for any future working relationship between Israel and the US. Then again, under Obama, this relationship has been pretty cold from the start.

Meanwhile, Hamas totally rejected the speech of course.  But the “best” news of all for Obama? With all his concessions, demands from and pressures upon Israel, and economic aid to the Arab world, the Arab world do not consider that he went far enough with Israel.

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12 Responses to The Obama Speech

  1. lady red says:

    As an American, I am profoundly embarrassed and angered by our president’s ignorance of the historical facts. His superficial speechifying and blatant pandering to the Arabs is both childish and stomach-turning. Throwing BILLIONS of American dollars down the Arab crapper while whittling down the light that is Israel is a stupid and naive foreign policy.

    • anneinpt says:

      It’s all of a part together with the general left-wing view that everything has a solution, indeed must have a solution. If a solution can’t be found then it must be our fault. “Our” meaning the west. Or in this case, Israel. One must never fault the “natives”, which in this case means the Arabs – never mind that the Jews are at least as native to the region as the Arabs.

      So if there’s no peace in the middle East it must be because the US/the West didn’t try hard enough, so I know! Let’s throw more money at them! And let’s pressurize Israel!

      The core of the problem is that Israel and the Jews are seen as the evil colonialists instead of the natives.

  2. reality says:

    as the right wing parties said, obama won’t last forever & people are getting fed up with him, whereas Jerusalem & Hebron have been & will be around for far longer than Obama. How he can change his ideas which he originally endorsed just show that either he is totally stupid(I actually don’t think he is) or is going senile & can’t remember what he said when, or has finally decided in true form that he really is an Arab loving /part of their tribe leader. Has anyone found out if he’s not REALLY an Arab?

    • anneinpt says:

      I don’t think it’s a matter of Obama being an Arab/Musim or not. It’s more to do with him being a leftist. See my comment above for my explanation.

      But I agree with you that J’lem and Hevron have been around for thousands of years, and will still be around, and still holy to the Jews for thousands of years more. No UN, EU or US will change that.

  3. Earl says:

    Had Obama even the slightest interest, he could save all this palaver and direct his attention to, say, the US economy. Or American health care. Or the current accont deficit. The federal and state deficits. Perhaps, the national debt…?:

    Hamas Principles

    The principles of the Hamas are stated in their Covenant or Charter, given in full below. Following are highlights.

    “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

    “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. ”

    “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

    “After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”

    And Bibi is a fool not to digest this and drive these points home at every opportunity. As in, “Israel is in an existential fight for its survival against a theologically-motivated enemy that will never relinquish these goals. Next question, please.”

  4. Pingback: Netanyahu’s diplomatic slap-down of Obama | Anne's Opinions

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  6. DavidinPT says:

    I recommend the analysis in the link below:

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110523-obama-and-arab-spring“>Obama and the Arab Spring

    which is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

    We’re probably all getting over-ecited about nothing much.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you for that link. It makes interesting reading, but if it is true (and it sounds pretty likely) then Obama is playing with Israel’s future for the sake of realpolitik and his own and America’s future. Now while I might sympathise with his situation in theory, in practice, by his saying those words he endangers Israel because his words will become the new starting point for Arab-Israeli negotiations, and the Palestinians will carry on waiting for the US to “deliver” Israel into their hands.

      I would recommend you read Lewy14’s comments on my post “Obama’s Aipac speech”. He gives a good analysis of America’s realpolitik dilemma.

  7. Pingback: Obama’s AIPAC speech – what a difference an election year makes | Anne's Opinions

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