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Obama gives the Palestinians what they want

For months now the Palestinian leadership in Judea and Samaria (also known by its Jordanian name, “West Bank”) has been pushing hard to get around two key international legal instruments that have hampered their ability to put pressure on Israel’s control of territory conquered in 1967. UN Security Resolution 242 essentially permits Israel to control Judea and Samaria for as long as there isn’t peace and Israel’s neighbors aren’t willing to accept its existence peacefully. The Oslo Accords turned 242 into a binding instrument upon the Palestinians who do not have a state and therefore were not necessarily obligated by 242 and added provisions that require negotiation and consent by both sides regarding a final peace agreement.

The problem for the Palestinians is that these agreements lock in the status quo indefinitely and force them to continue to pretend that they actually want peace and a resolution to this conflict. Had the Palestinians sought the outcome of peace and resolution, they could have negotiated after Olmert’s insanely generous peace offer in 2008 and closed the deal then. Alternatively, they could have gone to talks with the Netanyahu government. Instead, they opted to freeze talks on the basis of their belief that a clash between Obama and Netanyahu would greatly weaken Netanyahu and his government, eventually bringing them down. The Palestinians assumed this strategy would buy additional years, and time is, as far as they believe, the best weapon on their side. A team plays for time when it knows it’s losing the game but is hopeful that the more time they waste, the greater the chance of the other side making a mistake that could cost them their expected victory.

Israel has made many mistakes over these past years, particularly in permitting the charlatans of Fatah to escape Palestinian Darwinism in the form of a defeat to Hamas. In doing this, they permitted an Arafat crony and Holocaust denier in nice suits to lobby governments to grant his people a state or at least approval of a state-in-waiting over territory which remains in dispute on the basis of UNSCR 242 and Oslo. By going to the UN in September to request a state over those lines, the Palestinians are reaping the rewards of two decades of Israeli efforts toward a settlement of the conflict while giving up little in return.

Consider where the Palestinians were in 1994: their leadership was dispersed abroad; their local population was leaderless and lethargic after the waning of the first intifadah; their economy was extremely weak; they had few supporters among governments in the West; they were perceived as barbarians for their terrorism; they were heavily dependent upon Israel for their livelihoods; and, there didn’t seem to be much future to their national movement.

Oslo brought them back from the dead. Their leadership was permitted to reorganize in the Territories and were essentially given a clean bill of health from Israel’s government. Sanitizing them in this way, the Israelis essentially sponsored Arafat’s rebirth as an international diplomat and paved the way for Palestinian reorganization as a society. The exiled Fatah leadership took over and the Palestinians got a provisional government, policemen, soldiers, arms, more donations, a stronger international diplomatic presence, pockets of Judea and Samaria holding the majority of Palestinian residents there which were under their control, respectful attention from the press and governments around the world, and, well, a revived national movement.

The present situation is a direct result of those 17 years since Oslo began. Amazingly, nothing the Palestinians did over these years could undermine their progress under Israel’s and America’s tutelage and protection. They blew up hundreds of Israelis, rejected three peace offers, launched thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian centers, taught their children that martyrdom in killing Jews is a positive value, ran multiple international campaigns vilifying Israel for every wrong possible (often using imagery and language that brought up the most criminal of nations or anti-Semitic stereotypes) and as they did these things, they also oppressed their own people, restricted their press and visiting journalists, crushed political dissent, funneled large chunks of their aid into the pockets of people in the right circles and assiduously avoided any movement toward reconciliation with Israel or the formation of a true Palestinian state in the areas Israel was willing to cede (100% of Gaza, 94-97% of Judea and Samaria and additional land for swaps).

Nope, they could do no wrong. The world embraced these new Palestinians. Their noms de guerre disappeared, expensive suits replaced the military fatigues, the hair became styled and their language became diplomatic. So what if they blew up Israelis? It’s the Israelis’ fault for the occupation. So what if they kept saying no to Israeli offers? It’s the Israelis’ fault for not offering enough. So what if they would not relinquish demands that undermine their claims of seeking resolution to the conflict? It’s the Israelis’ fault for having won the wars in 1948 and 1967. Besides, there are geo-political considerations and the Muslim bloc in the UN has over 50 nations in it, many of which provide a large portion of the planet’s limited supply of oil. Internally, as well, the population shifts in many Western countries absorbing multitudes of Muslim immigrants, has made support for Palestinians and against Israel a viable position of politicians and even governments in the West.

Support for the Palestinians also came through the efforts of many left-wing Jews and Israelis who are either tired of the conflict or have accepted the Palestinian narrative of this conflict. They often drive media coverage of the conflict, provide some of the more compelling intellectual arguments favoring the Palestinians, provide guidance to the media, the UN and multiple prominent and less prominent NGOs, and ensure the Palestinian leadership is treated with greater respect and understanding than their Israeli counterparts.

These years have been good to Fatah, Hamas and the Palestinians leadership. They have been so good that they are ready to approach the UN to certify their semi-terror government and their aspirations to destroy Israel without submitting to their existing legal obligations. The plan is to have the UN General Assembly accept a Palestinian state over 1967 lines, which would include eastern Jerusalem and many areas where Jews currently reside but would become Palestinian. Why would they do this when they clearly want to bring Israel as the Jewish state down? Well, because it’s a victory that opens up the next chapter of attacks on Israel and they get it at no cost. As far as they’re concerned, it will be a temporary state that serves as a useful base of further attacks on Israel. They don’t have to give up anything in return and UNSCR 242 and the Oslo Accords become immaterial. Just a couple of days ago in a NY Times op-ed, Abu Mazen – that is, Mahmoud Abbas – announced that the primary focus of this embryonic state would be to pursue Israel in international courts and through international institutions with the goal of securing rights to Palestinians who currently do not reside in Israel. By establishing the title to a state and being so recognized by the UNGA, the Palestinians gain tremendously while giving up little. It’s a terrific victory for them.

It is this progress that Obama endorsed in his Middle East speech earlier. He essentially gave them 1967 lines, required Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas, and destroyed these two elements of Israel’s leverage in any negotiations with the Palestinians by giving them up without any demands made from the Palestinians except that they have to show some nebulous change in Hamas’s behavior. In other words, while Obama has not agreed to recognize a Palestinian state, he has paved the way for the world to say “yes” to 1967 lines because the US President himself has declared these lines valid. He has declared that Israel has to relinquish physical security lines but then wait until later to negotiate things like “return” or Jerusalem. Of course later Israel will have no leverage to compel the Palestinians to give up anything, but this doesn’t seem to concern Obama much. This is not unlike Obama’s equivocation a couple of months ago in the UN Security Council where the US refused to sign on to the lie that the settlements are illegal but then announced in that same meeting that the US government viewed them as illegitimate. In other words, “We agree with the rest of you guys, and keep moving forward on this basis, political considerations are preventing us from fully joining the party at this time.”

Obama is a friend of Israel’s detractors and attackers. He is not a friend of Israel’s except when saying so gets him applause. What is worse, he has now opened the door to continued conflict because his proposals merely entrench and strengthen the Palestinian leadership and its anti-Israel views. Israel will have little choice but to defend itself when the new attacks come – and this time, they won’t just be rockets and suicide bombs, but legal and diplomatic attacks by the General Assembly and some of its members. All in all, this was a terrible day for US-Israel relations, and for Israel’s future security needs.

32 Comments

  1. Joshua

    5/19/2011 at 10:21 pm

    YNet is reporting Bibi as livid and ready for battle against Obama. Let’s hope this is true. I’ve been waiting for a PM to finally stand up to any US President and say “Back off!” That’s why I despise Barak, Olmert, and Livni.
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4071411,00.html

  2. Thejewishteen

    5/19/2011 at 11:35 pm

    U used my vocab word for history in ur article-geo political. I’m pretty upset right now. Obama is just wow.

  3. Rabbi Yonah

    5/19/2011 at 11:47 pm

    The Obama speech ignores the most oppressive regime in the region, Saudia Arabia. How many times was it mentioned? Ah, zero, the same number of times that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran.

    J Street must be having a party tonight.

  4. Barry

    5/20/2011 at 2:29 am

    I’m not sure where all the negativity is coming from. Was the speech perfect? Obviously not. But he distinguished “Jerusalem” from the issue of “1967 lines”, smacked down the Palestinians for refusing to negotiate and making nice with Hamas, made a mockery of their plan to get their state handed to them at the UN, and re-asserted that any agreement must be the result of negotiations — and gave free reign for Israel to not enter negotiations as long as Hamas is part of the Palestinian government.

    TBH, he didn’t say much that wasn’t already agreed upon in the Bush-Sharon in 2004.

    • ugh

      5/20/2011 at 2:33 am

      Barry – The text allows for such a semantic safe interpretation… but the news reports following said otherwise, and without clarification from the WH.

      Also… pre-1967 puts Golan Heights on the table.

      • Barry

        5/20/2011 at 3:05 am

        The news reports are never going to get it right — a lot of them referred to 1967 “borders”, for instance, but Obama was more precise with his language and was careful to use the correct terms. Bibi’s flying to the US today and there will be a million press conferences, so the WH will have plenty of opportunities to clarify their position (which anyway will carry more weight when the Israeli PM is in the room).

        • themiddle

          5/20/2011 at 3:27 am

          He referred to “lines.” If the NY Times and other outlets misrepresent the facts, that can’t be blamed on Obama.

          • ugh

            5/20/2011 at 4:03 am

            I don’t think it’s an accident that every news outlet ran with the notion that Obama was talking “pre-1967” lines. Not a single Obama surrogate has sought to correct it in the wake of controversy.

            Obama is still planning to stand up at the AIPAC and pay lip service. We played naive about how Arafat was a changed man, and with the Gaza expulsion. Obama is now to the Left of Peace Now…be honest.

    • themiddle

      5/20/2011 at 3:22 am

      Barry, regarding the Bush letter, he has essentially gone back on the word of a previous president on an extremely significant issue.

      The negativity is coming from the fact that he has essentially endorsed the Palestinian attempt to work around existing obligations. This is a sophisticated politician with a sophisticated team around him and a small problem – the Democrats need Jewish support. As a consequence, and thanks to lessons learned in his earlier attempts to push Israel into the Palestinian corner, Obama now operates on two levels: public and stealth. In public, he says all the right things about unshakeable bonds, etc. He even, grudgingly, supports Israel in the UNSC on a topic that was clear-cut as far as law. However, on the stealth level, he does what he can to advance the Palestinians. That’s why in that same UNSC vote, the US said everything except that the settlements are illegal, but they sure dumped on Israel.

      In this speech he essentially did the same thing. He paid lip service to things that were obvious and don’t give anything to Israel. Pointing out that the Palestinians have avoided negotiations is not a smackdown and it also isn’t news. It costs him nothing to say it, or at least little relative to what he is giving them in this speech. Saying that the next few months will permit Hamas and Fatah to prove they are not genocidal murderers also costs him nothing. It requires no commitment from him, but merely leaves a vague notion of “If Hamas doesn’t act too badly, then we’ll say they’ve met our benchmarks for peace-lovers.” He doesn’t mock the Palestinian attempt to get their own state at the UN, but merely asserts that doing so will be meaningless. That’s not news to anybody. It also doesn’t leave him committed to negating such an act, which he pointedly said nothing about. Agreements must be negotiated, but that was also known before and adds nothing new to the discussion.

      So what did he say that was new? He indirectly said that he rejects the Bush letter, and directly that the Palestinians get “1967 lines” plus minus a little here and there and with equal swaps, and they get 1967 lines without having to give up anything in return. In other words, they get the key demand they have which is territory – land; contested land – without lifting a finger. He didn’t require that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, just Israel. They’ve already done that. He didn’t require that they give up their demands for Jerusalem or “return,” just that those things get delayed. He didn’t require “end of conflict,” just “real security.” What did he demand? He demanded just one relevant concession and it was a demand he made from just one party. He demanded that Israel sign off on a map with 1967 plus minus. Signing off on a map is THE KEY concession here. It is a critical point of leverage for Israel and the heart of the dispute. It is not an accident that Israel has never accepted the formulation of 1967 lines in negotiations with the Palestinians or that both Barak and Olmert capped their offers at around 95% of the territory of Judea and Samaria. In all those negotiations, without relinquishing “return” or eastern Jerusalem, the Palestinians were only willing to forfeit at most 2% of this territory. Obama has just endorsed their position, giving up Israel’s key point of leverage, but not only hasn’t demanded anything from the Palestinians in return, but more disturbingly, has given this major – perhaps the major – concession to the Palestinians while leaving open the question of “return” and Jerusalem. In other words, today they get ’67 lines for free, and tomorrow Israel gets their new and updated demands. And the US is behind them, not Israel…

      • ugh

        5/20/2011 at 4:07 am

        Worse, he did it the week of a Hamas-Fatah reunification, right after a trial run for a 3rd Intifadah featuring Arabs storming Israel’s borders.

      • Barry

        5/20/2011 at 5:02 am

        I think you’re mincing words here. “He doesn’t mock the Palestinian attempt to get their own state at the UN, but merely asserts that doing so will be meaningless.” Is there a difference? How can the Palestinians go to the UN now without looking like idiots? Their entire post-2009 plan — avoid negotiations, wait for Obama to bring down Bibi, sidestep the Israelis and get their state from the UN — has gone up in smoke. In fact, Obama essentially reiterated UNSC 242 but didn’t mention the UN at all, thereby acknowledging that the UN has completely failed with the Middle East process and more or less shutting them out of future dialogue. It’s true that it didn’t cost him anything to say that, but at a time when the EU (who still believe that UN resolutions have some value) has been considering support for a unilaterally declared Palestinian state, it’s a significant statement.

        Instead of putting the onus on Israel to stop settlement building before negotiations can begin, he shifted responsibility back onto the Palestinians. Israel finally has some wiggle room to decide for itself whether there is a viable peace partner, rather than being told to offer concessions to entice whoever the US endorses to negotiate with them.

        Regarding land swaps, in a follow-up interview with BBC, Obama said “the basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides.” Sounds a lot like Bush’s 2004 letter to me.

        Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff he didn’t stay, but there are only so many plans you can lay out in a speech while still claiming that a settlement cannot be imposed from outside.

        • themiddle

          5/20/2011 at 6:25 am

          No Barry, you are being extremely generous in your reading here. This was a wink and a nod to the fellas in the UN. Just read what I’ve quoted from Maged Abdelaziz, Egypt’s UN ambassador. Obama has given a blessing to the Palestinian initiative without overtly saying so. He saves himself from Jewish Democrats by giving himself an out, but gives a thumbs up to the players in the UN to play by these guidelines. If the US says “’67 lines” then it’s ’67 lines. Simple.

          As for paying lip service to how negotiations are needed, etc. What’s the point? What is there to negotiate if Israel concedes the map in advance?

          And if you’re right and what he’s saying is consistent with the Bush letter, then perhaps after the numerous unanswered requests his administration has received to acknowledge the letter, he can do so now. Right?

          • Barry

            5/20/2011 at 8:21 am

            Why give a wink and a nod to the UN when he could have mentioned them explicitly? What does it matter if Egypt’s ambassador wants to get excited about a meaningless UN resolution? Obama couldn’t have been much clearer on this point. And I don’t see where the UN fits into the framework of peace negotiations, based on the speech.

            I simply don’t see how this is a major shift in policy. Not to mention that we always bring up the fact that the Palestinians turned down peace offers in 2000, 2001, and 2008. And what was the basis of those offers? 1967 lines and land swaps.

            I’ll be happy to be proven wrong over the next few days. I’m especially interested, as are you, to see if Obama finally acknowledges Bush’s letter. Bibi seems determined to get a straight answer from the WH before he leaves Washington.

  5. ugh

    5/20/2011 at 2:30 am

    i would have thought it would take a 2nd term before obama twisted us policy into taking military action against israel…now i predict the unthinkable will happen by september.

    what did you all think would happen by voting in rashid khalidi’s buddy?

  6. Barry

    5/20/2011 at 2:30 am

    the Bush-Sharon *letters*, that is

    • Coralee

      6/27/2011 at 8:11 pm

      That arddseses several of my concerns actually.

  7. themiddle

    5/20/2011 at 4:37 am

    Here we go.

    President Barack Obama’s backing of a key Palestinian demand on the borders of its future state will help win UN recognition of a Palestinian state, Egypt’s UN ambassador said Thursday.

    Maged Abdelaziz linked Obama’s support for the borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war to the Palestinian campaign to get two-thirds of the UN General Assembly — at least 128 of its 192 member states — to recognize Palestine as a state by September.

    He predicted the Palestinians would get support from at least 130 nations, which would be “a milestone,” and would keep pursuing additional recognitions.

    Abdelaziz welcomed Obama’s support for the pre-1967 borders with “mutually agreed swaps” of land because it “runs in conjunction with the efforts by the Palestinian leadership to garner the most possible number of recognitions of the state of Palestine on the borders of 1967, with those swaps.”

    • Tom Morrissey

      5/20/2011 at 10:11 am

      I’m not sure if this was Obama’s intention, but it’s the likely result of endorsing 1967 “borders”. Once this element of statehood is met and acknowledged by the international community– including the US– it will be hard to object to the Palestinian UN initiative. I suspect it was Obama’s intention merely to throw the Palestinians a bone on the “borders” issue to compensate for US opposition to a statehood declaration. (“Borders” also substitutes for calls to an end of settlement-building.) The Egyptian ambassador has a better read on the likely results, however. All in all, a good day for the Palestinians, though over the next year and a half, Obama will be loathe to do more to alienate Jewish opinion.

  8. themiddle

    5/20/2011 at 11:43 am

    Tom, Obama knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. This was done intentionally.

  9. themiddle

    5/20/2011 at 11:45 am

    “Why give a wink and a nod to the UN when he could have mentioned them explicitly?”

    Because this way he can cover himself with the all-important Jewish Democratic voting base and donor base,

  10. Abu Zibby

    5/20/2011 at 11:50 am

    Tom, in the coming month the US debt crisis will be a much more pressing issue than the Near East. Obama’s speech will soon be forgotten in the US as it hardly matters there.

    It matters for Israel because now most other western countries will adopt the notion, that the pre-1967 lines should be the de facto borders of a future Palestinian State and PA/Hamas will be successful in passing it through the UN GA to the UN SC and probably get what they want, without concessions and without recognizing Israel.

    The problems Israel faces right now are nothing compared to the hostility and isolation she’ll face in Fall this year. Plus, Israel could be an easy target for asynchronous acts of war by her neighbours i.e. Cross-Border-Intifada, missile attacks, eco terrorism and bomb attacks on foreign targets associated with Judaism and Israel (not that this ever stopped, it will just get more intense).

  11. Tom Morrissey

    5/20/2011 at 1:14 pm

    Abu, there has already been heated reaction on the right and among Republicans to Obama’s speech. But, as ever, the reality is that conservative and/or Christian pro-Israel voters will vote against the Democrat anyway. The only way the speech isn’t “forgotten” and has domestic political consequences is if Jewish Democrats rise up in revolt. I can’t see that happening. Obama will do as well or better among Jewish voters in ’12 as he did in ’08.

    • Joshua

      5/23/2011 at 6:38 pm

      It already has. Obama lost my vote on Thursday, and one of my friends who also voted for Obama in 2008 has said that she won’t vote for Obama in 2012. Gene Simmons has given the public FU to Obama, and Ed Koch might be on his way, as well.

      • Jim

        5/25/2011 at 12:00 pm

        who cares!! You’ll be surprise on the next election, because we are going to rally behind Obama, you can count on that! Without the US tax dollars and military assistance, the invasion in ’48 wouldn’t have happened. I hope and pray that US will stop aiding these devils, who claim to be the chosen ones! Really, the same people who betrayed Jesus Christ and who does not believe that Jesus Christ exist, who were the ones who made “The Bible”, claim that they are the chosen ones! Are you kidding me,..chosen ones does not massacre, they are not greedy, they do’t murder women and children and steal their land. Not all Jews are the chosen ones.you are all false Zionist!!

        • themiddle

          5/26/2011 at 4:17 am

          Jim, we hope and pray that all supporters of the Palestinians will be as stupid and ignorant as you.

          Thanks,
          Your Ever Lovin’ False Zionist

  12. Pingback: Articles – May 20, 2011 | Mark Richman

  13. themiddle

    5/20/2011 at 3:57 pm

    God, I hope not.

  14. Jim

    5/25/2011 at 11:51 am

    It’s about time..get out and stop construction of your freakin settlements. THis is precisely the reason why Palestinians will not stop because these Jews stole their land. Negotiation, there’s no negotiation, this is Arab’s land. Get out and there will be peace. This carnage started when Jewish invaded Palestine.

  15. themiddle

    5/26/2011 at 4:15 am

    Jim, get an education.

    • a different barry

      5/26/2011 at 7:21 pm

      please folks, don’t respond to these idiots. there is an office in gaza with a 100 people on computers who do nothing but respond and post on sites like this. it is part of the “deligitimization campaign”. they search the net for any reference to Israel or Jews and spout this disgusting stuff. it’s like a call center.

      Obama has screwed us all. Our friends and relatives that were blinded by the utter nonsense that is Obama.
      Most Jews are not Jews, there religion is secularism. The same ones that refer to us as “those Israel loving Jews” are repulsive to me. They would vote for Adolf Hitler if he had a “D” next to his name and protected their precious “choice”. As long as they can kill a fetus they don’t care about killing those embarrassing Israelis.
      After all, the Nazis were National Socialists.

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