OBAMA AT AIPAC: TEN THESES
Share Post PrintMay 22, 2011 Posted by Scott at 10:27 AM
President Obama just completed his address to the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington. Given the context, it was an important and dramatic speech. Here is the text. It deserves the closest attention.
I offer ten theses based on the text of the two speeches, in no particular order, with no claim to originality:
1. Obama's statement of his principles for a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs did not belong in his speech on developments in the Arab world. Its inclusion was a mistake -- not from Obama's perspective, but from the perspective of the national interest of the United States.
2. The Arab Spring demonstrates the marginal nature of the problem of the Palestinian Arabs in the Arab world. For Obama to inject it after the damage he has already done is an act of ego and malice.
3. Obama is urging Israel to negotiate with a Hamas/Fatah government, if not with Hamas. "[N]o matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable."
4. Obama makes a point of demanding a "contiguous" Palestinian state. Such a state can only come at the cost of a contiguous Israel. A "contiguous" Palestinian state would bisect Israel between Gaza and the disputed territories.
5. Obama implicitly favors the redivision of Jerusalem as part of his proposal.
6. Obama doesn't mention the persistent Palestinian demand for a "right of return." In his discussion of the demographic considerations that support a peace agreement, Obama implicitly rejects it. Yet he will not say so publicly. Israel cannot agree to it and the Palestinians have never given it up.
7. Obama is not only urging Israel to negotiate with a Hamas/Fatah government, he is setting up the United States to support the jihadist governments that will result from the Arab Spring.
8. Obama's two speeches implicitly commit the United States to veto the Palestinian bid for national recognition by the UN this September.
9. Obama leaves the commitment implicit in order to maximize his leverage against Israel and keep his options open.
10. Obama intensely dislikes Israel, not just Prime Minister Netanyahu. His dislike comes through in the anger with which he asserts the pro-Israel commitments that precede his discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. My guess is that it also came through in his famous tribute to Rashid Khalidi, the videotape of which is still kept under lock and key by the Los Angeles Times.
The status of President Bush's 2004 commitments to Israel in the context of the pullout from Gaza is left ambiguous. It remains a matter of educated conjecture. It is another one of the matters not expressly addressed in Obama's two speeches. Reporting from the AIPAC policy conference, Ronald Radosh has posted a valuable assessment of Obama's AIPAC speech. Radosh takes up the question of Obama's attitude to these commitments,
The text of Obama's AIPAC speech does not convey Obama's obvious anger and defensiveness. Meryl Yourish captures some of this in her live blog post on the speech.
May 22, 2011 Posted by John at 8:01 PM
This is a supplement to Scott's very perceptive post earlier today, on President Obama's speech to AIPAC. I want to make one basic point about that speech, as well as the one Obama gave last week at the State Department.
It seems to me that the key passage in Obama's AIPAC speech was this:
There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations. Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday -- not what I was reported to have said.
Classic Obama. Did someone quote him inaccurately? Not that I am aware of. The uproar over this part of Obama's speech arose precisely from what he did say.
I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps -- (applause) -- so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
There are at least two key points here. One is that "Palestine" must be a contiguous state. As anyone with a map can tell you, this means that Israel will not be a contiguous state. The second, even more fundamental, is that is that the ultimate peace treaty will be "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."
The 1967 lines are obviously unacceptable to Israel. That would mean a country that is only nine miles wide at its narrowest point, and that does not include, among other things, the Western Wall. Obama purports to think that this is of little significance, since adjustments will be made via "swaps." But Israel starts way behind before it begins "swapping," whereas the Palestinians start by holding all the cards. What, exactly, is Israel supposed to give up in order to regain some of its most historic sites, not to mention the defensible borders which it already holds?
One of the most basic questions in any negotiation is, Where do you begin? If you are a lawyer who has settled hundreds if not thousands of cases (like me, for example) it is blindingly obvious that the starting positions of the parties are of great importance. As happens so often with President Obama, one asks: can he possibly be such a simpleton? I am not sure. Obama was never a real lawyer, nor does he have much experience in politics, so maybe he really doesn't understand how negotiations work. But that probably gives him too much credit: he can hardly be that dumb.
So what President Obama has proposed is antithetical to Israel's interests, and therefore to the United States' interests, because he wants Israel to begin negotiations from a deep hole that does not in any way reflect conditions on the ground. If this isn't selling our ally down the river--and, thereby, selling out our own interests--what is?