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Obama Fails to Second Red Line

Speaking at AIPAC conference, president moves closer to Israeli position on Iran—but not all the way there—ahead of meeting with Netanyahu

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President Obama yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

In his speech yesterday to the AIPAC Policy Conference, President Obama moved closer to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position, but not all the way there. And though AIPAC leaders praised the president’s speech, he declined to lend support to the group’s insistence that a weapons-capable—as opposed to weapons-desiring—Iran would constitute a U.S. red line. Tellingly, Haaretz reports that Obama and Netanyahu will not issue a joint statement following their White House meeting today: something that observers had optimistically suggested would represent a real breakthrough.

“Obama’s efforts to recalibrate the administration’s position … won some applause, including from the Israeli leader,” reported the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, in Ottawa, Canada, yesterday, Netanyahu said he “appreciated” Obama’s emphasis that military force is something more than just a rhetorical “last resort.”

“I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say,” Obama declared yesterday. “That includes … yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”

David Makovsky, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, identified to Tablet Magazine three new elements that Obama codified in yesterday’s speech: that taking military action on its own “is a sovereign decision for Israel;” that “containment won’t work;” and that “all options really are on the table.”

But for many Republicans, it was not enough. Rep. Eric Cantor, the Jewish House Majority Leader who held court in front of the podium after Obama’s speech, called the address “a step in the right direction,” but added, “We need to make sure that this president is also going to stand by Israel and not allow his administration to somehow speak contrary to what our ally thinks is in its best interest.”

And a quick look at AIPAC’s talking points on the Iran threat—which closely mirror those of Netanyahu—reveal that the president did not adopt them. As I reported yesterday, AIPAC and Netanyahu would like to see the red line shifted from an Iran that has both the ability to produce a nuclear weapon and that has made the decision to do so (or perhaps that has kicked out international inspectors so as to keep the world community in the dark on the latter) to an Iran that has the ability to produce a usable device in a short period of time. “If Iran achieves the status of a ‘threshold’ nuclear state,” the talking points declare, “it will enjoy virtually the same benefits as if it actually possessed nuclear weapons.”

Yet in his speech yesterday, Obama pointedly implied the possibility of Iran continuing to simply decide not to make a weapon: “The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program,” he said.

The next tea leaves will come this afternoon during and after the White House visit. Makovsky advised that observers look for statements of common red lines.

“I tend to believe this was an important prelude,” he commented of Obama’s speech. “We’ll have to see if there’s enough of a common ground.”

Obama, Netanyahu Brace for Fateful White House Meeting on Iran [Haaretz Diplomania]
‘Loose Talk of War’ Only Helps Iran, President Says [NYT]
Obama Shifts Toward Israel on Iran [WSJ]
Don’t Worry America, Israel Is Behind You [Forecast Highs]
Earlier: AIPAC Urges U.S. Shift to Iranian ‘Capability’

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Who cares if Cantor is happy or unhappy with this? What is a substantive way that Obama has failed Israel in terms of its security vs. failing Netanyahu in terms of political support?

Herb says:

JED is right on the mark. But, to take things one step further, the current occupant of the White House has NOT failed in terms of security and political support for the muslim brotherhood.

Cantor is a minor player here, as is Boehner. The Republicans (Again) have been marginalized due to their own incompetence. Netanyahu is a major player here – a true world leader compared to our cummunity organizer in chief. I find it politically (And morally) telling that the present occupant has not visited Israel, yet has visited dozens of muslim countries. Wake up and smell the truth – and the danger.

George says:

Obama’s Israel policy is incoherent. At one point, Obama summoned Prime Minister Netanyahu to the White House for a tongue-lashing and a well-publicized, deliberate snub.  After some political upheaval in the United States because of his Israel policies and rapidly changing events in the Middle East, Mr. Obama wasn’t so sure about the Israel situation any longer, but he did hear something about the 1967 borders that sounded like a winner politically. Abbas said that Israel’s 1967 border should be her permanent border, and so did Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama dithered in that direction, gave another speech, and created another ruckus.  Problem is Israel’s 1967 “border” and all the “borders” before it weren’t borders at all.  They were armistice lines.  Israel has been fighting wars for survival since 1948, and each war has been defensive.  At the end of each conflict, new armistice lines were created. The 1967 armistice line and those before it are not relevant in any way except as propaganda tools.

It was no coincidence that Obama delivered his “1967 Borders” speech just before Prime Minister Netanyahu was scheduled to arrive in Washington for an official visit. The outcry from people in this country who support Israel was strong and swift so the president backpedaled as best he could, but he also started pressuring Israel to agree to negotiate on the 1967 lines. Reports suggest that the pressure was intense, and in short order, the European Union came out in favor of the “1967 borders.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the proposal, as he should have, but why would our president take the advice of Israel’s enemies and make a major policy proposal concerning Israel’s future without consulting Israel first? That makes absolutely no sense unless you realize that Barack Obama is no friend of Israel.

George says:

Trying to force Israel to accept indefensible borders is preposterous. It’s a step in the process of eradicating Israel completely. If you took away all of the land that Israel has gained in wars for survival since 1948, Israel would have no land. That’s exactly what Palestinian leaders want. In their world, Israel doesn’t exist. Israel doesn’t even appear on their maps and the logo for the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations that’s in use today shows the entire land of Israel as “Palestinian” territory.

Israel is the only true friend that the United States has in the Middle East and maybe the world. Even more, Israel is on the frontline of the war between radical Islam and Western civilization.  On the western border with Gaza, the Israeli people have been called upon to endure indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas with only a minimal response; they must contend with a belligerent Hezb’allah and an unstable Syria in the north; in the east, Jordan is in turmoil and many wonder if King Abdullah can survive; and in the south, Saudi Arabia and Egypt continue to be major exporters of radical Islam.

Making matters worse, Israel’s relations with Jordan and Egypt (the only two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel) are in serious doubt.  A few days ago, Jordan’s King Abdullah went so far as to say that “Israel has an expiration date.” With radical Islamists nipping at his heels, it wouldn’t surprise me if King Abdullah suddenly decided to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel.  Following the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent election victory in Egypt, Middle East experts openly predicted that “Islamists may also seek to annul the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, which could prompt Israel to seize the Sinai Peninsula for the fourth time in its history to create a strategic buffer zone.” These developments don’t bode well for peace in the Middle East.

George says:

This is the bottom line. Israel has no friends in the Middle East, and her enemies are growing stronger by the day. One of the most incendiary political questions today is whether Israel is preparing to strike Iran, but the fact is that with help from Iran, Israel’s enemies are preparing to deliver what they think will be a death blow to Israel. Repeatedly over the years, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has boldly asserted that Iran intends to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Israel needs a friend in the White House, and Barack Obama is not that person.

Phil N says:

Obama is in campaign mode and hopes to cash in on that Jewish money. If Obama is reelected it will be time to make sure those nuclear tipped missles are ready for launch.

Lynne T says:

Nothing short of removing the current regime in Tehran will end Iran’s nuclear ambitions and I think both leaders know it. Sanctions may be hurting Tehran and I’m sure the instability in Syria isn’t helping, but I expect that the usual suspects will help Tehran export oil. It’s just that Obama would rather an attack is put off until after the US elections.

MH8169 says:

Unfortunately, I do not trust Mr. Obama at this juncture. His past behavior vis-a-vis Israel is painted with some deep gaps. Has he had a change of heart? Well, there is an election in November and this is what I hear: electioneering. Given his past three years and his Secretary of State, I have minimal confidence in the man.

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Three points:

1) Obama’s statement that Israel is sovereign to defend itself by itself was the most important point in his speech

2) Obama’s clear statement and reiteration the following day that his policy is not one of containment but rather ensuring that Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear arms is also an important one

3) What we, Jews, must remember is that in 1944 the World Jewish Congress begged the US president then to bomb the death camps of Europe but the response was, such an action will bring with it more catastrophic results… than the Jewish Holocaust… We say, no more, never again will we allow such an answer to stand between our collective right and duty to live and the will of others to see the demise of our nation-state of Israel and the six million Jews in it!! Never Again!!

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Obama Fails to Second Red Line

Speaking at AIPAC conference, president moves closer to Israeli position on Iran—but not all the way there—ahead of meeting with Netanyahu

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