Opinion

Obama’s latest Middle East speech shows a failure of leadership

Rep. Dan Burton Contributor

President Obama’s recent speech on the Middle East turmoil was billed as a “reset” of America’s relationship with the Arab world. We were promised a new era of American diplomacy. Instead, what we got was the same old failed policies of throwing money at a problem. That approach could end up having a detrimental effect on our friend and ally, Israel. President Obama is supporting movements in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria while at the same time telling Israel, in effect, “you’re on your own.” Who is the president supporting with our tax dollars? We don’t know! Will it be the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or radical Islamists in Libya, Syria, or Tunisia? And what about Bahrain and Yemen?

Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East, yet President Obama is urging the creation of a Palestinian state — one that governs in partnership with an Israel-hating terrorist group: Hamas. President Obama’s endorsement of the Palestinians’ demand for their own state based on the pre-1967 borders completely reverses our longstanding policy that borders must be determined through negotiations and puts our relationship with Israel in peril. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, by choosing to form a unity government with Hamas, has proven he has no desire for peace with Israel. The Palestinians have been conducting a diplomatic campaign to portray Israel as a renegade, a pariah state that flouts the will of the international community, in prelude to demanding that the United Nations General Assembly unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. By essentially announcing his support for that proposal, President Obama has made that action very likely.

In his speech, the president promoted changes that will lead to more problems for Israel. Buried toward the end of the president’s speech was a statement that challenges the current U.S.-Israel security alliance. The president said, “As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat.” It appears as though the president — either intentionally or unintentionally — is throwing Israel to the wolves. A statement like that gives encouragement to those who seek Israel’s destruction and could serve as a spark for continued unrest in the Middle East. It is the wrong message to send and it is my hope that the president will reassess his ill-advised position and acknowledge this reality before it is too late.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) is a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia.