Why does President Obama continue to bully Israel to accept the suicidal "1967 borders" to start up peace negotiations?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
In President Obama's "Arab Spring Speech" he called for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to be based on the so-called 1967 borders, which were really the armistice lines following Israel's 1949 War of Independence. This effectively asks Israel to give up more recent defensible borders that were attained as a result of the Six Day War in 1967---which is essentially to commit suicide.
Remember that in June of 1967 four hostile Arab armies led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser massed on Israel's borders. Israel preemptively attacked the Arabs to defend herself against annihilation. In repulsing her enemies and winning the 1967 war, Israel greatly expanded her territory, including the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the eastern part of Jerusalem. Some of this land has been annexed by Israel for security purposes, but most of it has stayed on the table as a bargaining chip for peace with the Arabs.
Indeed, since 1967, Israel has shown a willingness to trade land for peace---in its peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt and in many offerings to the Palestinians---which makes it unnecessary for President Obama to unilaterally declare that Israel must go back to its 1967 borders. Once the Palestinians are willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and give up the ridiculous notion of a right of return for millions of descendants of Arab refugees, they will have their state. Unfortunately, since 1967 the Palestinians' approach to peace has not been negotiation, but rather thousands of rockets and countless terrorist attacks.
Israel has every right to maintain territory won in a defensive war and should never be asked to give up any of Jerusalem, its holiest city. It is up to Israel, and Israel alone, to determine what defensible borders means in relation to her Arab neighbors. A visual representation is helpful in understanding just how vital the notion of defensible borders is to Israel. Take a minute to view this excellent video by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, which clearly demonstrates what Israel is up against.
In this week's FLAME Hotline, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin exposes the weakness and folly of President Obama's 1967 borders declaration. In his speech to AIPAC last month, President Obama stated that Israel could not be expected to negotiate with those who want to destroy her (i.e. Hamas). However, when Rubin contacted the White House, National Security Council spokesman Thomas Vietor would NOT give a direct answer to the question of whether Israel was expected to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. Rather than having a clear plan for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, this administration is squeezing the Israelis into an impossible situation---insisting that they negotiate with an entity even Obama says they shouldn't have to negotiate with.
What's worse about President Obama's positions is that the Palestinians have taken to making a precondition out of each of his precepts. This first happened with the settlement issue, with the Palestinians following Obama's lead and saying they would not negotiate until all settlement building ceased. This despite the fact that the settlements had never been an issue in preventing negotiations before. Now the Palestinians say they are ready to negotiate, but only if Israel agrees to the 1967 borders as a precondition. In other words, Mr. Obama keeps moving the peace process backwards.
One thing is certain: Israel must maintain defensible borders, which she absolutely did not have in 1967. In addition, the onus to come back to the negotiation table in good faith should remain squarely on the Palestinians' willingness to accept the Jewish state. We supporters of a strong US-Israel alliance can take solace, though, that at least the United States Congress seems to be fully in Israel's corner. Hopefully, President Obama will soon follow.
At this point, it's critical for us pro-Israel activists to back our sentiments with action. Here's what you can do:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have introduced House Resolution 268, which urges the Obama administration to rally opposition to Palestinian efforts seeking recognition of statehood. In July, Arab states will submit a measure to the United Nations (U.N.) calling for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state. The Cantor/Hoyer resolution also warns of repercussions for U.S.-Palestinian relations if an unreformed Hamas is included in a new Palestinian government. I urge you to pick up the phone and call your Congressional representative right now through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 225-3121. To identify your Representative (and contact him or her via email), go to Contacting the Congress. (You'll need your nine [5+4] digit zip code to find your Representative.) Please take a few minutes, right now, while you have this Hotline in hand, to contact your Representative. Urge him or her to support H.R. 268: We oppose U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state as long as Hamas is part of the Palestinian government.
I would also urge you, using the Forward to a Friend button below, to forward this powerful message to your friends, family, and colleagues. Israel needs us now.
Obama bullies Israel; so much for promises at AIPAC
by Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post, June 12, 2011
Since the president's Arab Spring speech, friends of Israel have been nervous about at least two issues: the promise Israel would not have to sit down with those who seek its destruction and the negotiations based on the "1967 borders with land swaps." This weekend it became apparent that there is much to worry about and that the Obama administration has been playing a game usually practiced by the Palestinians, namely telling its domestic audience one thing and the negotiating parties something different.
The trouble for the administration began on Friday afternoon when Eli Lake published a story for the Washington Times.
Lake also wrote:
Is the U.S. president pressuring Israel to adopt a position that is not its own and diminishes its bargaining position? And what happened to the statements in President Obama's speech to AIPAC that Israel could not be expected to sit down with those who want to destroy it? After all Hamas has not yet agreed to the Quartet principles (recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and abide by past agreements), nor has Mahmoud Abbas separated himself from the unity government. To the contrary now he is renouncing past agreements including the Oslo Accords, which call for mutually negotiated final borders and prohibit the parties from taking unilateral steps that would impair negotiations.
I contacted the White House on Friday regarding the latter issue. I asked multiple times, "1.Can you confirm that the president's position is that Israel should come to the table even without a commitment by Hamas to the Quartet principles and without Abbas breaking with Hamas? 2.If he is asking for 1967 borders from Israel, has anything been asked of Abbas before coming to the table?" Thomas Vietor, the NSC spokesman, refused to give a direct answer, referring me back to Obama's speech:
But that didn't answer the question. Is the administration now asking Israel to sit down with Abbas absent a commitment by Hamas or a break-up of the unity government? By gosh, that should be an easy answer ("No!") , yet the administration won't say.
This is a very, very big deal. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams explained to me Friday evening: "I hope news reports of what the Obama White House is privately demanding of Israel are wrong. If the reports are right, the U.S. is now abandoning the Quartet Principles — and asking Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian side that includes Hamas without Hamas taking one single step away from terror. The Palestinian 'concession' if these negotiations start would be to pull the plug on seeking U.N. membership." Moreover, it is a "concession" with very little meaning. Abrams told me that the Palestinians "can't get U.N. membership if the U.S. vetoes it, so this looks like a desperate White House effort to avoid having to veto. It would leave Israel negotiating with Abbas in the mornings while he is negotiating with Hamas in the afternoons.Then when he gets the Hamas deal the negotiations will collapse, just like they did last year." He cracked, "The only thing left of that effort is the memory of Mubarak's purple-black dyed hair in the East Room." And like clockwork, Obama's position now becomes the Palestinians' latest precondition. It's almost like they are on the same team.
Although it was a Friday evening, Capitol Hill was already rumbling. A GOP adviser told me, "If the administration really wanted to, it could pressure the Quartet to formally oppose the Palestinians' unilateral move at the U.N. and nip the whole issue in the bud in a long weekend. Clearly, they would rather use this situation to box Prime Minister Netanyahu into a false choice between unilateral statehood and '67 borders. The Congress will reject this false choice and so should the PM." Moreover, Democrats who have been spinning the president's conflicting statements as best they can may now feel burned. A longtime Middle East insider put it this way: "If there are preconditions [for Israel], then that is a change in policy. Just like the mistake we made over settlements, as Abbas said, leading him up a tree. And this time, not only creating a new Palestinian precondition to talks, but in essence giving the P.A. an excuse to pursue the U.N. track, if this latest gambit to wrest pre-negotiations concessions from the Israelis — and nothing from the Palestinians — ends in failure."
Now what about the 1967 borders? Democratic defenders of the president have insisted that "1967 borders with land swaps" is nothing new. But it appears it certainly is. As the insider noted, "Yes, they are pressing for '67 with swaps, not exactly '67. But that's not really the point — they've already adopted what was a Palestinian 'goal' as U.S. policy."
And it is actually worse than that. On Saturday I asked a State Department official authorized only to speak on background: Does "1967 borders with land swaps" mean "1967 and then we discuss swaps" or does it mean "1967 borders plus the swaps that the parties previously agreed to in negotiations including the Jerusalem suburbs"? The latter, I pointed out is consistent with the 2004 Bush-Sharon letters, but the former is not. In fact, if it is 1967 and then they discuss land swaps, that is the same as starting with the 1967 borders. Period. And sure enough the State Department official told me, "It means swaps that the parties will agree on in the course of direct negotiations."
To be clear, Israel is being pressured to give up prior understandings that the Western Wall and the Jerusalem suburbs, for example, would never be part of a Palestinian state. A veteran negotiator explains, "This administration believes that every single deviation from 'the 1967 borders' must be paid for by Israel in a one to one swap. That has never before been the U.S. government's demand, and it weakens Israel's bargaining position." In other words, there is zero difference in the Obama scheme between "1967 borders" and "1967 border with land swaps." In both, the starting point is borders Israel has deemed indefensible.
Congressional friends of Israel are likely to be enraged. A spokesman for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) conveyed the senator's view: "The president's insistence last month that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders represented a significant departure from past U.S. policy and has been roundly repudiated by members of both parties. Given this lack of support, even from his own party, it is inconceivable why the President would continue to undermine the position of our democratic ally Israel in its negotiations with a hostile neighbor."
I spoke to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who plainly was angry over the continued effort to bully Israel. He said in a phone interview, "President Obama never learns. His real instinct is to weaken Israel. You don't treat an ally this way." He said he has never seen this sort of behavior from any U.S. president. After the apparent "rapprochement" following the Arab Spring speech, King says the current posture is "shameful." Given the strong support in the Congress for Israel, will there be resolutions or a cutoff of funding for the Palestinians? He said firmly that it is time to start "fighting fire with fire." In other words, as much as Obama seeks to pressure Israel while whispering vague promises to the American Jewish community, the Congress may very well try to recalibrate the balance. We should at least have one branch of government in our ally's corner, right?