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Bibi Gets What He Wants, Replies With Scorn

Today’s speech was almost all the Israeli PM could’ve hoped for, yet not enough

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Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this week.(Gali Tibbon-Pool/Getty Images)

Sorry to take this tone, but really, it’s very simple: In his speech, President Obama gave Prime Minister Netanyahu essentially everything he could want. First and foremost, he committed the U.S. to vetoing any binding vote on Palestinian statehood at the U.N. (“Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state”). He slammed reconciliation in the language of an op-ed writer: “The 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?” He even seemed to acknowledge Netanyahu’s wish for a Palestinian state that would be demilitarized. This is in addition to the bromides about our unshakable (never ever to be shaken!) commitment to Israel’s security, so de rigueur that they are apparently taken for granted. He did, if I may, everything I predicted he’d do: Sadly shrugged (and waxed hopeful), and prepared the veto pen.

And, yes, he mentioned the ’67 borders, “with mutually agreed swaps,” as the basis for negotiations, becoming the first U.S. president to explicitly, publicly do so. But if you think this was a policy shift, get real: Secretary of State Clinton has mentioned them; and they have always been understood as the basis for a two-state solution—something this president and the previous one have endorsed. Besides, these are the basis for negotiations—and what negotiations? There are no negotiations! And Obama made it clear that reconciliation would be a legitimate excuse to continue not having negotiations!

With this speech, Bibi and those who share his views scored a touchdown. The Anti-Defamation League recognized this, and did the smart thing, emphasizing the good and ignoring the ’67 part. And what did Netanyahu do? He picked a fight over the ’67 borders comment! Why? The leader of your superpower patron, who by all accounts dislikes you personally (can’t imagine why), just granted nearly every one of your wishes. There is no need for you to endorse every last word of the speech, but isn’t there a way to be gracious about it? Why would you antagonize Obama right now? As I say, this was a touchdown. If you are classy, then when you score a touchdown, you briefly celebrate, toss the ball to the ref, and jog to the sideline—which is what the ADL (the ADL!) did. (If you are really stupid, like the Simon Wiesenthal Center, you make a reference to “Auschwitz” borders. That is the football equivalent of scoring a touchdown and then getting an illegal celebration penalty, 10 yards on the kickoff.) Netanyahu’s response to this great day for his government has revealed him to be the classless, talentless statesman and boorish ideologue that his detractors have always claimed.

Obama’s Mideast Speech [NYT]
PMO Announcement Following President Obama’s Speech [Facebook]
ADL Applauds President Obama’s Strong Outline Of Principles For U.S. Policy In Middle East [ADL]
Earlier: Obama: ’67 Borders, Demilitarized Palestine

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Adam says:

While something more clearly supportive and appreciative was probably needed, I’m not quite sure if this is the type of rejection of Obama’s speech as is being reported. In essence isn’t the PMO’s statement reiterating just what Obama did, while also throwing in the need for the Palestinians to recognize the “Jewish character” of Israel, a point that he has stuck to for a while now?

Again, certainly not the most constructive response to be sure, but just seems like a) largely in agreement with Obama (’67 borders with adjustments) and b) boilerplate expression of negotiation points.

Maybe I’m missing something, but reading the PMO’s statement, where exactly is the scorn your referring to? Like the previous commenter said, maybe it could have been a bit more gracious to Obama, but claiming this “revealed him to be the classless, talentless statesman and boorish ideologue that his detractors have always claimed” is not at all what I saw when I went to read the actual statement (it doesn’t help either that you don’t quote any of it in your analysis).

It came out of a press office, correct, and doesn’t quote Bibi directly, so think it’s more in the nature of a trial balloon, and if it incurs criticism, he’ll be able to distance himself from it.

I would guess that Bibi is having back channel talks with the Republicans, who would love to use this as a wedge issue to peel away some of the Jewish vote from the Democratic Party before the election.

H/Ramat-Gan/Israel says:

Sorry Mr. Tracy but:

Nice Words != Total Withdrawal

And more important I don’t believe or trust any obligation or commitment of this man, Obama, and the people who surround or support him including his jewish supporters like you. As Haaretz/NYT/New-Yorker/Dailybeast/AmericanProspect/TPM/Hufpo/972/Mundoweiss reader you will find it odd but I believe that must Israeli’s are on my side on that.

H/Ramat-Gan/Israel says:

PS

’67 is not a small one – just go to all of the major American news sites – they also emphasize this. Are all blind MR. Tracy ?

ps ps
From my room (9th floor) I can see even now in the night the lights from Samaria Hills, and from the guest room I can see the sea. SO Please don’t tell me what is small and what is large.

Your summary, Marc, is on the money. Well done.

Gene says:

Let me put this way: it shouldn’t contradict UN resolution 242 which assures the right of every state in the region to live within SECURE borders. Only “secure” and not necessarily within 1967 armistice lines.

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Two points about Obama’s speech:

1. He must realize, the 1949 armistice lines (dubbed 1967 boundaries) are simply a none starter for Arab Israeli peace. Even UN Security Council Resolution, 242, which was designed to achieve Arab Israeli peace, accepted by all parties, including the PLO, has been the basis for all peace talks and actual agreements does not even suggest such future borders.

2. Obama should have addressed directly and forcefully the Arabs’ categorical refusal to accept Israel’s RIGHT to be, to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people on ANY parcel of land between the River and the Sea. This refusal has been the very core of the conflict, yet Mr. Obama has refused to address it.

Adina Kutnicki, Israel says:

Looks like this screed was written by an Obama devotee, or more likely, a J Streeter.
Sorry, bucko. Bibi did precisely what a PM of Israel has to do-he smacked down this non-starter, demanding our national suicide. And, if the writer believes that our PM does not have his own Zionist audience to answer to, then delusional is more like it.
His feet will be held to the fire, and that’s that!!

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

Tracy, this may well have been the best Israel could expect from Obama but that is more an indictment of Obama than anything else. Even a relative dove like Yossi Klein Halevi has problems with Obama’s speech (http://www.tnr.com/article/world/88730/obama-middle-east-speech-netanyahu-israel).

In truth, other than having Bibi genuflect before his O-ness and then rise up O-ing himself, you would condemn Bibi.

A lesson in history & geography for you: Prior to its peace treaty with Egypt, Israel never had borders (except for the northern border with Lebanon). The ’67, or more correctly ’49, cease fire lines were just that – cease fire lines. The Arab states, led by TransJordan, pointedly refused to recognize the ’49 cease fire lines as borders because borders are final and not movable except by agreement. Clearly they hoped to push the lines inward and indeed that was their goal in 1967. Obviously it turned out the opposite.

In the early ’50s Israel asked the USA to recognize the ’49 lines as borders but was turned down by Eisenhower & co. Indeed the idea of the Green Line or the ’49 lines as Israel’s “internationally recognized border” and being referred to as the “’67 borders” was invented well after 1967 War as a way of delegitimizing what Israel won in a defensive war (see M.Oren’s “6 Days of War”).

UNSC Resolution 242 was painstakingly worded to preclude an obligation to give up ALL the territories Israel won in the 6 Day War, so as to enable another critical provision of Res.242 – that Israel was entitled to “secure and recognized boundaries” which it hitherto had been denied. The legislative history of Res.242 clearly shows that the USA & UK assumed that the borders would change to Israel’s advantage WITHOUT land swaps.

You don’t need 242 if the basis for border changes are “agreed upon land swaps”. Bush implicitly recognized this the ’04 letter repudiated by Clinton & Obama.

In short Obama has thrown both Israel and Resolution 242 under the bus.

hg
Israel

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

BTW Tracy your ignorance is showing once again. The phrase “Auschwitz borders” to refer to the ’49 cease fire lines was coined by Israel’s great and dovish Foreign Minister Abba Eban, not the Simon Wiesenthal Center. They were just quoting Eban.

Once again you demonstrate ginzy’s law, that political correctness is inversely proportional to factual or historical correctness, or knowledge in your case.

hg

So this is being described as a non-starter by Adina and others. So. please tell me what exactly is a STARTER?

It seems to me to be quite the opposite of a demand for national suicide. Staying the present course of all war all the time and constant infringement/land grabbing into Palestinian territory by so-called settlers is, in fact, national suicide.

The president of the United States took appropriate action in his speech yesterday. He wants this prolonged hand wringing to stop and for actual, rational negotiations to begin. There has to be a starting point and there has to be an end to this frozen situation. I suspect that neither party will be fully satisfied but the negotiations MUST begin anew and the must begin immediately.

Shalom Freedman says:

These contemptuous remarks for the Prime Minister of Israel by a minor commentator who has no responsibility whatsoever for the overall fate of the Jewish people of Israel are also erroneous in judgment. The statement about the Sixty- Seven lines is the key element, singled out by almost every major commentator. It marks a change in the official U.S. position , and a violation of the promise made by President Bush to Israel. The Sixty- Seven lines without the Jordan valley, the mountain ridges of Samaria were called by no – less than Abba Eban in ‘the lines of Auschwitz’.
I would also point out the lack of wisdom in the President’s position. Making a major concession to the Palestinians who have all along refused to negotiate, who have now become Hamas-Fatah, who have never stopped their incitement( And a considerable section of which call for the murder of every Jew i.e. This is the Hamas charter) will never bring them to to the negotiating table. It will only strengthen them in their belief that they have to negotiate nothing, but rather use their considerable political power to maneuver themselves to the victory they seek i.e. The destruction of Israel.
So despite the positive points in the President’s address it is being evaluated everywhere on the Sixty-Seven lines declaration.
PS There is a way of disagreeing with the policies of political leaders while nonetheless showing them respect and consideration. Cheap ad hominem arguments are not the stuff of good journalism.

Hersh-Laib says:

Israel has always insisted on negotiations without pre-conditions. Obama just nixed that. Perhaps we should have two presidents, one for domestic issues and one for international ones, as our current president seems deficient in the latter area.

Good article, Mark. Don’t let the Bibites (Netan-yahoos?) get you down.

dina adler says:

i totally agree with all the responses that chastise the writer of the article for a. ignorance of Jewish history and b.kowtowing to Obama’s “love the Palestinians” posture.

Where is the demand that the Palestinians renounce violence and recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

How can two groups negotiate anything when one of them is committed to the non-existence of the other? Has any other group except the Nazis had as their basic raison de’etre the complete elimination of a group/country?

ilana kantey says:

didn’t obama say how can there can be no negotiations witout hamas changing their destruction of israel policy and now plo allying with them so all the poeple upset about his comment which said BASED On 67 have nothing to worry about

fred lapides says:

I have just finished listening to Obama’s address to the American Jewish lobby(AIPAC) Bibi is way off track. Obama said his words were not read with care, and that Israel had the right to secure borders (trading land during talks), and that there could be no peace till Hamas and the Palestinians accepted Israel’s right to exist and recognized Israel as a state. Further, his administration is upping the amount of aid being sent to Israel, and Israel would get the latest and most up to date materials they needed.

fred lapides says:

It remains important and fair to read EXACTLY what Obama is saying! Here it is , clear and to the point:

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/world/middleeast/23aipac.html?hp

ilana kantey says:

whoops just read what i typed shouldnt have the word no before negotiations

B”H I don’t see life through your eyes.

It is BECAUSE Netanyahu is so ‘boorish’ that Obama said what he did yesterday.

All he is insisting on is what the great LABOR foreign minister Abba Eban said must be true.
…………………………………
“We have openly said that the map will never again be the same as on June 4, 1967. For us, this is a matter of security and of principles. The June map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz. We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June, 1967, if we had been defeated; with Syrians on the mountain and we in the valley, with the Jordanian army in sight of the sea, with the Egyptians who hold our throat in their hands in Gaza. This is a situation which will never be repeated in history.”
- Abba Eban, Israeli Statesman, in Der Spiegel, November 5, 1969

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Bibi Gets What He Wants, Replies With Scorn

Today’s speech was almost all the Israeli PM could’ve hoped for, yet not enough

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