Obamas Middle East Speech - the Good and the Bad

Leo Rennert
Since the mainstream media are bound to cherry-pick only those Obama comments that will please the Palestinians and ignore or downplay those apt to please Israel, let's look ourselves at all of Obama's remarks -- the good and the bad.

In an obvious attempt to preempt Netanyahu's agenda in D.C., Obama urged Israel to jettison the status quo and make "bold moves toward peace."  Bibi obviously is not in a mood for "bold" strokes when Hamas is on the ascendancy.

Obama also was bound to send some tremors through Israel by calling for borders of a Palestinian state "based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."  This fairly closely approximates Mahmoud Abbas's agenda and, in an important sense, diminishes the importance of negotiations.  Why negotiate borders when they're already determined by the president of the United States?

But while tomorrow's headlines will blare news of Obama endorsing the 1967 lines for a two-state solution, the president left room for important modifications that Israel is bound to demand -- i.e., retention of big Jewish settlement blocs like Ma'ale Adumim just beyond the 1967 lines.  Obama didn't simply endorse the 1967 lines; he added that there also ought to be room for "mutually agreed swaps." 

That said, Obama also served up quite a few reassurances to Israel, especially on security, plus some blunt criticism of the Palestinians.  To wit:

He urged Abbas to resume talks with Netanyahu.  He blasted Palestinian attempts to delegitimize Israel and predicted that they will end in failure.  He warned Palestinians that symbolic acts to isolate Israel at the U.N. won't create an independent Palestinian state -- a sharp rebuke to Abbas's current strategy of seeking a unilateral U.N. declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Obama was also blunt in taking shots at Hamas as it pursues coequal partnership with Fatah in a new Palestinian regime.  The president warned that Palestinians will not obtain peace and prosperity under Hamas's agenda of terrorism and rejectionism -- a shot against Abbas's agreement to form a "unity" government with Hamas.  Nor will Palestinians realize independence, Obama warned, by denying the right of Israel to exist.

While signaling U.S. positions on borders, Obama said he also will insist that, in any peace agreement, security provisions for Israel be "robust enough" to prevent terrorism and halt infiltration of weapons -- remarks that can be construed as support for Bibi's demand for a demilitarized Palestinian state with a continuing Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

In all, quite a few chips that Israel, not just the Palestinians, should be able to cash when dealing with the Obama administration.

Still, Obama's explicit reference to the 1967 lines also gives Abbas some succor and could help him get unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood from the U.N. General Assembly in September. 

This was not a pro-Israel speech or a pro-Palestinian speech.  It was a typical Obama speech, in which the president lays out his own wish list -- however far-fetched and contradictory.

Yes, contradictory, because how can you demand "bold" initiatives toward peace from Israel while acknowledging at the same time all the obstacles and dangers that militate against "bold" proposals at this dicey and chaotic juncture in Mideast history?  Where is a Palestinian Anwar Sadat to reciprocate such "bold" Israeli overtures?
Since the mainstream media are bound to cherry-pick only those Obama comments that will please the Palestinians and ignore or downplay those apt to please Israel, let's look ourselves at all of Obama's remarks -- the good and the bad.

In an obvious attempt to preempt Netanyahu's agenda in D.C., Obama urged Israel to jettison the status quo and make "bold moves toward peace."  Bibi obviously is not in a mood for "bold" strokes when Hamas is on the ascendancy.

Obama also was bound to send some tremors through Israel by calling for borders of a Palestinian state "based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."  This fairly closely approximates Mahmoud Abbas's agenda and, in an important sense, diminishes the importance of negotiations.  Why negotiate borders when they're already determined by the president of the United States?

But while tomorrow's headlines will blare news of Obama endorsing the 1967 lines for a two-state solution, the president left room for important modifications that Israel is bound to demand -- i.e., retention of big Jewish settlement blocs like Ma'ale Adumim just beyond the 1967 lines.  Obama didn't simply endorse the 1967 lines; he added that there also ought to be room for "mutually agreed swaps." 

That said, Obama also served up quite a few reassurances to Israel, especially on security, plus some blunt criticism of the Palestinians.  To wit:

He urged Abbas to resume talks with Netanyahu.  He blasted Palestinian attempts to delegitimize Israel and predicted that they will end in failure.  He warned Palestinians that symbolic acts to isolate Israel at the U.N. won't create an independent Palestinian state -- a sharp rebuke to Abbas's current strategy of seeking a unilateral U.N. declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Obama was also blunt in taking shots at Hamas as it pursues coequal partnership with Fatah in a new Palestinian regime.  The president warned that Palestinians will not obtain peace and prosperity under Hamas's agenda of terrorism and rejectionism -- a shot against Abbas's agreement to form a "unity" government with Hamas.  Nor will Palestinians realize independence, Obama warned, by denying the right of Israel to exist.

While signaling U.S. positions on borders, Obama said he also will insist that, in any peace agreement, security provisions for Israel be "robust enough" to prevent terrorism and halt infiltration of weapons -- remarks that can be construed as support for Bibi's demand for a demilitarized Palestinian state with a continuing Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

In all, quite a few chips that Israel, not just the Palestinians, should be able to cash when dealing with the Obama administration.

Still, Obama's explicit reference to the 1967 lines also gives Abbas some succor and could help him get unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood from the U.N. General Assembly in September. 

This was not a pro-Israel speech or a pro-Palestinian speech.  It was a typical Obama speech, in which the president lays out his own wish list -- however far-fetched and contradictory.

Yes, contradictory, because how can you demand "bold" initiatives toward peace from Israel while acknowledging at the same time all the obstacles and dangers that militate against "bold" proposals at this dicey and chaotic juncture in Mideast history?  Where is a Palestinian Anwar Sadat to reciprocate such "bold" Israeli overtures?