Obama'sMideast Myopia

President Obama met this week at the White House with King Abdullah of Jordan -- the first of separate get-togethers with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders in coming weeks.    In an exchange with reporters, Obama made several comments which ought to give pause to anyone expecting him to act as an honest broker to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace.  His comments raise serious doubts about his grasp of the conflict and thus what it will take to resolve it.

To wit:

1.  If you log on to the White House website, the transcript of the Obama and Abdullah remarks is preceded by a statement that the two leaders spent the bulk of their time on questions regarding Israel and "Palestine".   Obama's support of a two-state solution is well known.  But to have the White House declare that there already exists a "Palestine" is, to say the least, jumping the gun.  Beyond that, it points up the basic flaw in Obama's peacemaking strategy -- to start with Palestinian statehood instead of preceding it with confidence-building measures, including Palestinian renunciation of terrorism and cessation of anti-Israel incitement, as required by Bush's "road map," which the Obama administration itself seems to have embraced.

2.  In stressing the need for an end to the conflict, Obama said "generations of Palestinian and Israeli children are growing up insecure, in an atmosphere of hate."  This is what you get when you persist in playing the equivalence game, regardless of how lopsided some realities may be.   Is there really as much of an "atmosphere of hate" in Israeli homes and schools as there is in Palestinian homes and schools?  Does Israeli children's TV promote the killing of Palestinians as Palestinian TV does in grooming Palestinian kids to become terrorist "martyrs"? 

3. And with such an equivalence paradigm, Obama then goes on to declare that there will need to be "some hard choices of all the actors involved."  What about "hard choices" already made?  On the Israeli side, there has been a total withdrawal from Gaza and a ceding of administrative and political autonomy to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.  Plus, recent Israeli leaders already have shown ample evidence of readiness for "hard choices" by volunteering to withdraw from 95 percent of the West Bank and even to give up Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. 

What "hard choices," in return, were made by Arafat or, more recently, by Abbas?  Zilch.  Abbas hasn't deviated one inch from his claim of an absolute Palestinian "right of return" (which would create 2 states -- both Palestinian) and complete Israeli withdrawal from the entire Old City of Jerusalem and all of Hebron.  Yet, by flippantly calling on both sides to make "hard choices," Obama buys into the false notion that there is somehow an equivalent point of departure -- as if Israel and the Palestinians will have to proceed from the same starting gate -- with no points for Israel for already having unilaterally shrunken its size and unilaterally empowered the Palestinian Authority to rule all major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, to say nothing of Hamastan in Gaza.

4. Said Obama:  "I am a strong believer in a two-state solution.  I think there are a lot of Israelis who also believe in a two-state solution."  This is a not-so-veiled slap at Prime Minister Netanyahu for not embracing Obama's mantra to put Palestinian statehood at the head of the line.  And why did Obama fail to say anything about how many Palestinians favor a two-state solution?  Why is it only important that Israelis do?  Why not admit that many Palestinians reject a two-state solution and want a single Palestinian state from the river to the sea?  After all, Hams iron rule of Gaza and as a sizeable political presence in the West Bank isn't exactly chopped liver.  If Obama were really serious about playing the role of impartial, honest broker, he'd have to, at a minimum, spell out how Abbas can negotiate for the Palestinians as long as he can't speak for half his people.

But to Obama, these are all inconvenient details to be swept aside in favor of his grand vision of a Palestinian state.
President Obama met this week at the White House with King Abdullah of Jordan -- the first of separate get-togethers with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders in coming weeks.    In an exchange with reporters, Obama made several comments which ought to give pause to anyone expecting him to act as an honest broker to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace.  His comments raise serious doubts about his grasp of the conflict and thus what it will take to resolve it.

To wit:

1.  If you log on to the White House website, the transcript of the Obama and Abdullah remarks is preceded by a statement that the two leaders spent the bulk of their time on questions regarding Israel and "Palestine".   Obama's support of a two-state solution is well known.  But to have the White House declare that there already exists a "Palestine" is, to say the least, jumping the gun.  Beyond that, it points up the basic flaw in Obama's peacemaking strategy -- to start with Palestinian statehood instead of preceding it with confidence-building measures, including Palestinian renunciation of terrorism and cessation of anti-Israel incitement, as required by Bush's "road map," which the Obama administration itself seems to have embraced.

2.  In stressing the need for an end to the conflict, Obama said "generations of Palestinian and Israeli children are growing up insecure, in an atmosphere of hate."  This is what you get when you persist in playing the equivalence game, regardless of how lopsided some realities may be.   Is there really as much of an "atmosphere of hate" in Israeli homes and schools as there is in Palestinian homes and schools?  Does Israeli children's TV promote the killing of Palestinians as Palestinian TV does in grooming Palestinian kids to become terrorist "martyrs"? 

3. And with such an equivalence paradigm, Obama then goes on to declare that there will need to be "some hard choices of all the actors involved."  What about "hard choices" already made?  On the Israeli side, there has been a total withdrawal from Gaza and a ceding of administrative and political autonomy to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.  Plus, recent Israeli leaders already have shown ample evidence of readiness for "hard choices" by volunteering to withdraw from 95 percent of the West Bank and even to give up Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. 

What "hard choices," in return, were made by Arafat or, more recently, by Abbas?  Zilch.  Abbas hasn't deviated one inch from his claim of an absolute Palestinian "right of return" (which would create 2 states -- both Palestinian) and complete Israeli withdrawal from the entire Old City of Jerusalem and all of Hebron.  Yet, by flippantly calling on both sides to make "hard choices," Obama buys into the false notion that there is somehow an equivalent point of departure -- as if Israel and the Palestinians will have to proceed from the same starting gate -- with no points for Israel for already having unilaterally shrunken its size and unilaterally empowered the Palestinian Authority to rule all major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, to say nothing of Hamastan in Gaza.

4. Said Obama:  "I am a strong believer in a two-state solution.  I think there are a lot of Israelis who also believe in a two-state solution."  This is a not-so-veiled slap at Prime Minister Netanyahu for not embracing Obama's mantra to put Palestinian statehood at the head of the line.  And why did Obama fail to say anything about how many Palestinians favor a two-state solution?  Why is it only important that Israelis do?  Why not admit that many Palestinians reject a two-state solution and want a single Palestinian state from the river to the sea?  After all, Hams iron rule of Gaza and as a sizeable political presence in the West Bank isn't exactly chopped liver.  If Obama were really serious about playing the role of impartial, honest broker, he'd have to, at a minimum, spell out how Abbas can negotiate for the Palestinians as long as he can't speak for half his people.

But to Obama, these are all inconvenient details to be swept aside in favor of his grand vision of a Palestinian state.