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In the aftermath of US President Barack Obama’s May 19 speech on the Middle East, his supporters argued that the policy toward Israel and the Palestinians that Obama outlined in that speech was not anti-Israel. As they presented it, Obama’s assertion that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must be based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps does not mark a substantive departure from the positions adopted by his predecessors in the Oval Office.
But this claim is exposed as a lie by previous administration statements. On November 25, 2009, in response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of Obama’s demand for a 10-month moratorium on Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the State Department issued the following statement: “Today’s announcement by the Government of Israel helps move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”
In his speech, Obama stated: “The United States believes... 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.”
That is, he took “the Palestinian goal” and made it the US’s goal. It is hard to imagine a more radically anti-Israel policy shift than that.
And that wasn’t Obama’s only radically anti-Israel policy shift. Until his May 19 speech, the US agreed with Israel that the issue of borders is only one of many – including the Palestinians’ rejection of Israel’s right to exist, their demand to inundate Israel with millions of foreign Arab immigrants, their demand for control over Israel’s water supply and Jerusalem – that have to be sorted out in negotiations. The joint US-Israeli position was that until all of these issues were resolved, none of them were resolved.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, claim that before they will discuss any of these other issues, Israel has to first agree to accept the indefensible 1967 boundaries as its permanent borders. This position allows the Palestinians to essentially maintain their policy of demanding that Israel make unreciprocated concessions that then serve as the starting point for further unreciprocated concessions.
It is a position that is antithetical to peace. And on May 19, by stipulating that Israel must accept the Palestinian position on borders as a precondition for negotiations, Obama adopted it as US policy.
SINCE THAT speech, Obama has taken a series of steps that only reinforce the sense that he is the most hostile US president Israel has ever faced. Indeed, when taken together, these steps raise concern that Obama may actually constitute a grave threat to Israel.
Friday’s Yediot Aharonot reported on the dimensions of the threat Obama may pose to the Jewish state. The paper’s account was based on administration and Congressional sources. The story discussed Obama’s plans to contend with the Palestinian plan to pass a resolution at the UN General Assembly in September endorsing Palestinian statehood in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
According to Yediot, during his meeting with Obama on May 20, Netanyahu argued that in light of the Palestinians’ automatic majority support at the General Assembly, there was no way to avoid the resolution.
Netanyahu reportedly explained that the move would not be a disaster. The General Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed the PLO’s declaration of independence in 1988.
And the sky still hasn’t fallen.
Obama reportedly was unconvinced. For him, it is unacceptable to be in a position of standing alone with Israel voting against the Palestinian resolution. Obama’s distaste for standing with Israel was demonstrated in February when a visibly frustrated US Ambassador Susan Rice was forced by Congressional pressure to veto the Palestinians’ Security Council draft resolution condemning Israel for refusing to prohibit Jews from building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Yediot’s report asserts that Obama refused to brief Netanyahu on the steps his administration is taking to avert such an unpalatable option. What the paper did report was how George Mitchell – Obama’s Middle East envoy until his resignation last week – recommended Obama proceed on this issue.
According to Yediot, Mitchell recommended that Obama work with the Europeans to draft a series of anti-Israel resolutions for the UN Security Council to pass. Among other things, these resolutions, which Mitchell said would be “painful for Israel,” would include an assertion that Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria is illegal.
That is, Mitchell recommended that Obama adopt as US policy at the Security Council past Palestinian demands that Congress forced Obama to reject just months ago at the Security Council. The notion is that by doing so, Obama could convince the Palestinians to water down the even more radically anti-Israel positions they are advancing today at the UN General Assembly that Congressional pressure prevents him from supporting.
Since General Assembly resolutions have no legal weight and Security Council resolutions do carry weight, Mitchell’s policy represents the most anti-Israel policy ever raised by a senior US official. Unfortunately Obama’s actions since last week suggest that he has adopted the gist of Mitchell’s policy recommendations.
First there was his speech before AIPAC. Among other things, Obama used the international campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist as a justification for his policies of demanding that Israel capitulate to the Palestinians’ demands, which he has now officially adopted as US policy.
As he put it, “there is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process – or the absence of one. Not just in the Arab world, but in Latin America, in Europe, and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.”
From AIPAC, Obama moved on to Europe. There he joined forces with European governments in an attempt to gang up on Israel at the G8 meeting.
Obama sought to turn his embrace of the Palestinian negotiating position into the consensus position of the G8. His move was scuttled by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who refused to accept any resolution that made mention of borders without mentioning the Palestinian demand to destroy Israel through Arab immigration, Israel’s right to defensible borders, or the Palestinians’ refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist.
If Harper had not stood by Israel, the G8’s anti-Israel resolution endorsing the Palestinian negotiating position could have formed the basis of a US-sponsored anti-Israel Security Council resolution.
Israelis planning their summer trips should put Canada at the top of their lists.
THE FINAL step Obama has taken to solidify the impression that he does not have Israel’s best interests at heart, is actually something he has not done. Over the past week, Fatah leaders of the US-backed Palestinian Authority have made a series of statements that put paid any thought that they are interested in peace with Israel or differ substantively from their partners in Hamas.
At the Arab League meeting in Qatar on Saturday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian state “will be free of all Jews.”
Last week the US-supported Abbas denied the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and claimed absurdly that the Palestinians were 9,000 years old.
Equally incriminating, in an interview last week with Aaron Lerner from the IMRA newsgathering website, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said that now that Hamas was the co-leader of the PA with Fatah, responsibility for continuing to hold IDF St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit hostage devolved from Hamas to the PA. And the PA would continue to hold him hostage.
Shaath’s statement makes clear that rather than moderating Hamas, the Fatah-Hamas unity deal is transforming Fatah into Hamas.
And yet, Obama has had nothing to say about any of this.
Obama’s now undeniable antipathy for Israel and his apparent willingness to use his power as American president to harm Israel at the UN and elsewhere guarantee that for the duration of his tenure in office, Israel will face unprecedented threats to its security. This disturbing reality ought to focus the attention of all Israelis and of the American Jewish community. With the leader of the free world now openly siding with forces bent on Israel’s destruction, the need for unity has become acute.
MADDENINGLY, HOWEVER, at this time of unprecedented danger we see the Israeli media have joined ranks with Kadima in siding with Obama against Israel in a joint bid to bring down Netanyahu’s government. Yediot Aharonot, Maariv, Haaretz, Channel 2, Channel 10, Army Radio and Israel Radio’s coverage of Netanyahu’s visit and its aftermath was dominated by condemnations of the prime minister, and praise for Obama and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who called for Netanyahu to resign.
The fact that polling data showed that only 12 percent of Jewish Israelis regard Obama as pro-Israeli and that the overwhelming majority of the public with an opinion believes Netanyahu’s visit was a success made absolutely no impression on the media. The wall-to-wall condemnations of Netanyahu by the Israeli media lend the impression that Israel’s leading reporters and commentators are committed to demoralizing the public into believing that Israel has no option other than surrender.
Then there is the American Jewish leadership. And at this critical time in US-Israel relations, the American Jewish leadership is either silent or siding with Obama. Right after Obama’s shocking speech on May 19, the Anti-Defamation League released a statement endorsing it. Stand With Us congratulated Obama for his AIPAC speech.
With the notable exceptions of the Zionist Organization of America and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA), leaders of American Jewish organizations have refused to condemn Obama’s anti-Israel positions.
Their silence becomes all the more enraging when placed against the massive support Israel receives from rank-and-file American Jews. In a survey of American Jews taken by CAMERA on May 16-17, between 75% and 95% of American Jews supported Israel’s position on defensible borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian “refugees,” Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the right of Jews to live in a Palestinian state.
The refusal of most American Jewish leaders, the Israeli media and Kadima to condemn Obama today makes you wonder if there is anything the US president could do to convince them to break ranks and stand with Israel and with the vast majority of their fellow Jews. But it is more than a source of wonder. It is a reason to be frightened. Because Obama’s actions over the past two weeks make clear to anyone willing to see that in the age of Obama, silence is dangerous.