Why yesterday for Obama to unload the demand that Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, with some negotiated land swaps?
Contrary to what some are claiming, this is a new formulation. Under the Obama formulation, Israel has a land mass fixed by the 1949 armistice lines, lines which the Arabs never recognized as having any meaning until after Israel acquired more land in 1967. Hamas, which controls Gaza and has entered into a ruling coalition government for all of the Palestinian Authority, does not recognize Israel’s right to exist within any borders.
While previous U.S. administrations acknowledged that the pre-1967 borders likely would be the starting framework for a territorial deal, no prior administration set those borders as the best Israel could do. Issues such as Israeli communities beyond the pre-1967 borders or control of strategic Wests Bank hills and the Jordan Valley, now are open to negotiation on terms set by Obama — in a land swap of existing Israeli sovereign territory. The standard territorial compromises which would afford Israel territorial security no longer are presumed.
The Obama apologists who are falling all over themselves to say this really was nothing new, have to ask themselves, if this was nothing new, why did Obama make such a big deal about it in his major Middle East Speech? If it was no big deal, why were there intense communications between Israel and Obama officials in the hours leading up to the speech? If it was no big deal, why did Obama wait until the last minute to decide whether to include the language in his speech?
All of the evidence, historical and otherwise, demonstrates that Obama intended to make a bold new policy statement with his reference to Israel returning to the pre-1967 borders plus some negotiated land swaps.
Why now? Why so soon after Hamas and Fatah kissed and made up (at least superficially)? Why in a speech in which Obama made clear that the butcher of Damascus could and should stay in power so long as he implemented reforms? Why just a day before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu left for the U.S. for a speech before a joint session of Congress?
I don’t think it is hatred of Israel. Surely there are Israelis who love their country who take a similar view to Obama.
More than a hatred of Israel, Obama simply doesn’t feel the historical, religious, and emotional connection to Israel felt by a majority of Americans. Much as the unique British-American relationship was cast aside, so too the special Israeli-American relationship is secondary to a greater goal.
The greater goal is Obama’s legacy and ego. Obama wants to accomplish what no other person has been able to achieve, Arab acceptance of Israel as a permanent Jewish state in the midst of a sea of Muslim nations.
It is an elusive goal because Israel is not accepted by Muslims. That’s the hard truth. Even in Egypt, which has a peace agreement with Israel, public opinion is against Israel and anti-Israel clerics can draw a million people into the streets to chant anti-Israel slogans without much effort.
Similarly, the Palestinians show no signs of truly accepting Israel. Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, and if there were free elections again in Palestinian Authority territory, it is likely Hamas would win. The Palestinians, through their votes and actions, have made clear that any agreement with Israel would be just a stage in the war to destroy Israel.
Against this backdrop of rejectionism, there is only one party who can be pressured if Obama is to achieve his goals, and that party is Israel.
As Obama knows, Israel is very vulnerable absent Obama diplomatic support. Attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel are only one U.S. abstention in the U.N. Security Council away from success. With an upcoming U.N. General Assembly session in September intended to declare a Palestinian state, the position of the U.S. and European Union on the issue is the difference between the declaration being just another meaningless anti-Israel General Assembly resolution, or the tool by which Israel is made a pariah nation isolated even from its only allies.
So Obama, ego-driven and determined to make his place in history, has only one place to go to force a peace agreement. That place is Jerusalem, not Ramallah.