Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post.
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.
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