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