Obama sells out Israel — for nothing in return

John Wohlstetter Author, “Sleepwalking with the Bomb”
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Betrayal is not too strong a term. The president’s May 19 speech turned Israel upside down. It was a shocking sellout of our only reliable Mideast ally, and can only energize Palestinian maximalist sentiments. There are two money paragraphs of Obama’s May 19 speech. First, on final borders:

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe 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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

Second, on Hamas as a negotiating partner:

[T]he recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.

This repudiates 44 years of settled U.S. policy, which has been based on the call in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 for Israel to withdraw to “secure and recognized” boundaries. Per Obama, Palestinians would have a presumptive claim to the 1967 lines — referred to by Obama as borders, which in fact they are not, because the Arabs refused to recognize Israel and thus would not settle borders. (The “1967 lines” are the pre-Six Day War lines, i.e., the 1949 lines.)

Israel would have to swap a land bridge to the Negev in order to create contiguous sovereign territory between the West Bank and Gaza. In exchange, Israel would get limited access to Jerusalem.

And what of Hamas? By saying that “Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer,” Obama invites them to use words to pretend, as Yasser Arafat did for decades, to be amenable to Israel’s existence. Since its 1988 founding, every American president — four administrations — has rejected Hamas out of hand as a terrorist group dedicated to destroying the Jewish state. Now, Hamas, still officially a terrorist group under U.S. law, is potentially a legitimate partner. No statement demanding that Hamas renounce its intention to destroy Israel. No renouncing of terror. Nothing. Just trust the Palestinians.

On top of those betrayals and the usual inane banalities in any diplomatic speech is this Orwellian moral equivalence history lesson:

That is the choice that must be made — not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region — a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.

“A choice between hate and hope?” Since 1948 we have seen 63 years of Palestinian hate against 63 years of Israeli hope. Put simply, one side has sought peace, while the other wants total victory. It is not a boundary dispute, but an existential struggle, that drives the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Under President Obama’s formulation, Israel’s width would shrink to nearly one-sixth its current size, from 45 miles today to 1967’s 8-mile width. The 1967 lines place the entire historic core of Jerusalem presumptively in Palestinian hands, to be traded for part of Israel’s territory today via “mutually agreed swaps.” Palestinians would thus gain vital bargaining leverage.

For his part, Netanyahu flatly rejected the 1967 borders formula in his first public reaction, stating:

Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.

That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.

Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are indefensible and would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.

Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.

Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.

The Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas, whom Obama apparently expects to bargain hard with Hamas and negotiate in good faith with Israel, has lied about the most important fact about the conflict: why Arabs fled their homes in 1948. He told the New York Times on May 16:

In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative [regarding partition]. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued. Indeed, it was the descendants of these expelled Palestinians who were shot and wounded by Israeli forces on Sunday as they tried to symbolically exercise their right to return to their families’ homes.

But this is what Abbas told Falastin a-Thaura (the PLO’s official journal) in March 1976:

The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which Jews used to live.

Last year Obama tried to force extension of the housing freeze on new Jewish “settlements” in Jerusalem. The Palestinians had never made such a freeze a precondition to talks. After Obama’s move, Abbas told Israeli TV that he could hardly ask for less than America had asked for. Similarly, Obama’s comments about the 1967 borders will force Palestinian leaders to escalate their demands.

Once again, per the long-ago Israeli foreign minister Abba Ebban, the Palestinians, by merging Hamas and Fatah, “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” But President Obama is intent on seeing that they get endless more opportunities whilst pushing Israel as far as he thinks possible. This is a profound betrayal of a key ally, and thus deeply harmful to America as well.

John C. Wohlstetter is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, author of The Long War Ahead and the Short War Upon Us, and founder of the issues blog Letter From the Capitol.