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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
(415) 356-7801

June 16, 2009

When Obama pressures Israel to stop settlements, he ignores the facts and lessons of history

Dear Friend of FLAME:

As President Obama has talked with Arab leaders, they have all told him that there can be no negotiations as long as Israel is building or expanding settlements. Obama has taken them at their word and promised them that he will deliver Israel.

Unfortunately, our President is unaware that these same leaders always have some justification: Today it's settlements, before it was the return of Palestinian refugees, or the issue of Jerusalem, or something else. Why was there no negotiated agreement in 1948 or at any time prior to 1967, when there were no settlements? The answer of course is that no concessions, other than the elimination of a Jewish state, will be satisfactory to the Arabs.

So our President and Secretary Clinton have decided to be tough on Israel. They have listened to the Arab leaders, as well as anti-Israel groups in the US, including the Jewish ones (J Street, Israel Policy Forum, Tikkun), and concluded that the U.S. must be the tough parent and force the recalcitrant child (Israel) to do what will eventually work to bring about peace.

Unfortunately, neither our President nor any of those pushing him in this direction, are aware of history. Worse, there is an arrogance in the belief by the circle around the President that they know better than the Israelis who actually live in the region, and who have lived with constant rocket attacks, suicide bombers, and repeated warfare.

Obama seems to believe that history began when he took office, in his claim that Israel must finally reach out with peace gestures.

History tells us that a Jewish state in that part of the world is not only a reaction to the Holocaust, (as Obama seems to believe) but much more. History tells us how various plans have collapsed under the weight of Arab intransigence. History tells us of the many times (contrary to Obama's Cairo speech) that Israel has reached out to its neighbors and offered peace. History tells us that the one time that part of the  Arab world (Egypt) listened, they received all of their land back, even though much blood had been expended in a defensive war that resulted in that land coming under Israeli control. 

We are faced with a blindness to the lessons of history, an arrogance and self-righteousness that serves no one's interests. There is a lack of recognition that only one factor prevents peace, and that is Arab rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East. In all the cries for Netanyahu to say the magic words (two states), no one is calling for the Palestinians to say they will accept that one of those states will be a Jewish state. Neither Fatah nor Hamas have shown any willingness to accept this, but have specifically said no.

And then there is Iran. A nation racing to develop militarized nuclear weapons, who have denied the Holocaust while threatening another one. While Iran is vowing to obliterate Israel, our President sees no need for serious time restraints. He tells us he will give it to the end of the year, then consider sanctions. Yet with the settlements, he tells us "time is of the essence".

Indeed, Obama's new, so-called evenhanded approach ignores which party has historically reached out, and which has consistently rejected any serous peace negotiations. Israel has much to lose by angering the U.S.  But the time may come when there is no choice, when the national interest of Israel means that peremptory and dangerous orders from the US must be ignored.

The excellent article below, by commentator Charles Krauthammer, exposes Obama's recent Middle East overtures as unrealistic in leading to peace and patently unfair to Israel.

So why is Obama leaning on Israel? Simple. Because he can. Read on.  


Lawrence W. White,
Contributor, FLAME


If you agree that Israel should not be pressured to make concessions unfairly to Arabs who freely admit they want nothing more than to obliterate the Jewish state---and who have demonstrated this consistently for the last seven decades---please review the recent FLAME position paper---"The "Root Cause" of the Middle East Turmoil: Would peace descend if the Arab-Israeli conflict were resolved?" While the Obama administration seems to believe that an Israel-Palestinian agreement is the linchpin of Middle East peace, history---and this powerful FLAME position paper---tell us otherwise.  This editorial piece has run in national media delivering more than ten million impressions, including to college students and all U.S. Senators and Representatives.  We also recently posted another excellent article on the subject of U.S. pressure on Israel, called "Don't Blame Israel," by Alan Dershowitz, which appeared in the New York Post. Please check it out.  Above all, if you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion---including the administration's tendency to hold Israel solely responsible for peace in the Middle East---comes from Israel's supporters like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies.  To give him yours, please go right now to write the President.

Dispelling the Myth that Israel's Settlements Are the Key to Middle East Peace
By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, June 5, 2009

President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."

An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone—Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions."

What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them—not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns—even before negotiations.

To what end? Over the past decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements—and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself. ad_icon

That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why expel people from their homes and turn their towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?

This idea is not only logical, not only accepted by both Democratic and Republican administrations for the past decade, but was agreed to in writing in the letters of understanding exchanged between Israel and the United States in 2004—and subsequently overwhelmingly endorsed by a concurrent resolution of Congress.

Yet the Obama State Department has repeatedly refused to endorse these agreements or even say it will honor them. This from a president who piously insists that all parties to the conflict honor previous obligations. And who now expects Israel to accept new American assurances in return for concrete and irreversible Israeli concessions, when he himself has just cynically discarded past American assurances.

The entire "natural growth" issue is a concoction. Is the peace process moribund because a teacher in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is making an addition to her house to accommodate new grandchildren? It is perverse to make this the center point of the peace process at a time when Gaza is run by Hamas terrorists dedicated to permanent war with Israel and when Mahmoud Abbas, having turned down every one of Ehud Olmert's peace offers, brazenly declares that he is in a waiting mode—waiting for Hamas to become moderate and for Israel to cave -- before he'll do anything to advance peace.

In his much-heralded "Muslim world" address in Cairo yesterday, Obama declared that the Palestinian people's "situation" is "intolerable." Indeed it is, the result of 60 years of Palestinian leadership that gave its people corruption, tyranny, religious intolerance and forced militarization; leadership that for three generations rejected every offer of independence and dignity, choosing destitution and despair rather than accept any settlement not accompanied by the extinction of Israel.

That's why Haj Amin al-Husseini chose war rather than a two-state solution in 1947. Why Yasser Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in 2000. And why Abbas rejected Olmert's even more generous December 2008 offer.

In the 16 years since the Oslo accords turned the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palestinians, their leaders built no roads, no courthouses, no hospitals, none of the fundamental state institutions that would relieve their people's suffering. Instead they poured everything into an infrastructure of war and terror, all the while depositing billions (from gullible Western donors) into their Swiss bank accounts.

Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements.

Blaming Israel and picking a fight over "natural growth" may curry favor with the Muslim "street." But it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas: Sit and wait for America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy not just dishonorable but self-defeating.

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