ZOA: Obama’s Recent Speeches Show Hostility To Israel & Support For Palestinian Positions
May 25, 2011


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has outlined the large number and variety of problems contained in President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy pronouncements in recent days. Here follows a detailed analysis of the failings of his approach articulated in his two recent speeches, one before the State Department on May 19, and the second before AIPAC on May  22, that mark out his policy towards Israel to be hostile and dangerous.

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal in an article this week entitled “Obama – An Anti-Israel President”, wrote that President Obama showed contempt to Israel and its supporters this week.  “His speeches were stocked with the perennial bromides about US/Israeli friendship which brought an anxious crowd to its feet.  As for the rest, it was a thin tissue of falsehoods rhetoric legerdemain, telling omissions and self-contradictions.”


·         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 statesZOA response: In a sentence, Obama did away with U.N. Security Council Resolution 242’s insistence on secure and recognized borders for Israel to be achieved by negotiations. This has always been understood to mean no return to the perilous 1949 (same as 1967) armistice lines. As President Lyndon Johnson put it in 1967, a return to the 1967 borders “was not a prescription for peace, but for renewed hostilities.” Or again, as President Ronald Reagan said in 1982, “In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten miles wide at its narrowest point … I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.” But Obama just did.  Also, the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported to President Johnson after the 1967 war that Israel would need to retain most of Judea/Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights in order to ensure its own security. Both Houses of the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly endorsed (including then-Senator Hillary Clinton) Israel’s right to defensible borders by supporting President George W. Bush’s April 2004 letter, stipulating that Israel is not expected to return to the 1949 armistice lines but, rather, is entitled to “defensible borders”.  Obama subsequently said that the parties “will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.” But inasmuch as the “1967 lines” and “agreed swaps” would mean only a marginally different boundary from that which previously, he simply reaffirmed what he previously said. Also, why should the PA receive 100% of the land mass of Judea & Samaria, the maximal amount of land?  Is this how Obama defines compromise? Given PA conduct – continuation of terrorism, incitement to hatred and murder within the PA, a unity agreement with Hamas – and the absence of any warrant in 242 for the proposition that Israel must cede all 1967 gains, or at least equivalent amount of territory, the PA shouldn’t receive and doesn’t deserve this extraordinary 100% concession.   


·         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 PalestineZOA response: This makes nonsense of Obama’s sop to AIPAC, when speaking of his promotion of Israel’s retreat to the pre-1967 lines, that “mutual agreed [territorial] swaps” conditioned his position. By speaking of the need for a future Palestinian state to have “permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt …” he has consigned Israel to leaving the Jordan Valley (where 10,000 Jews live), an area whose retention all Israeli governments have regarded as vital to Israeli defense. The late Yitzhak Rabin said so in his last speech the Knesset in October 1995; Benjamin Netanyahu just reaffirmed it. Obama ignores this, calling for a “full and phased Israeli withdrawal” in all territories ceded by Israel. This means Israel entrusting its security to those who have violated it over 17 years – the PA.  Would the PA/Hamas government really protect Israel’s Jordan Valley eastern flank against invasion of weapons and terrorists from Jordan. It also means all Jews living there must leave – a further endorsement of the Palestinian position.


·         The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized stateZOA response: This means Israel entrusting its security to those who have violated it over 17 years – the PA. It also means all Jews living there must leave – a further endorsement of the Palestinian position. Also, Obama’s words about a non-militarized Palestinian state are meaningless. No state has ever been subject to that condition, nor has anyone prevented a state from rearming. The most famous and horrifying example is the requirement of Germany in the 1920’s to be demilitarized. Moreover, legally, it is unlikely anyone could enforce such a condition, even if it were a provision in a signed agreement. Additionally, under the Oslo agreements, the PA was supposed to be largely demilitarized, possessing only light defensive forces and police, but it became instead a much larger military force armed with offensive weaponry. No-one insisted it disarm its forces to the required levels. Clearly, experience provides no reason to expect that a sovereign Palestinian state, in full control of its own borders and security policies, will be any better.


·         Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.  I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain:  the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and PalestiniansZOA response: Obama now speaks of Jerusalem and refugees as issues that should be put off until issues of “territory and security” are agreed upon. In other words, Israel must offer major concessions of statehood before these will even be addressed. The 2003 Roadmap plan, with its call – though inadequate – for Palestinian reforms and for a state with provisional borders has been replaced by Obama by further, major Israeli concessions ahead on any Palestinian commitment to peace. Such a situation would mean that Israel would cede almost every major concession, including territory and statehood, eliminating any Palestinian incentive to concede on these other issues. Worse, Obama did not address the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return.’ He did not repudiate it as incompatible with peace-making, since its implementation would encompass the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, nor did he state, as previous U.S. presidents have done, that the solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants lies in their resettlement outside Israel. Instead, by speaking of it as an outstanding issue to be resolved, he gave credence to the idea that the Palestinians do possess such a right.  And why would the PA even compromise over these issues after they’ve already established a state.  Obama’s position destroys any Israeli leverage in negotiating these issues.  Obama’s position also inadvertently follows Arafat’s “plan of phases” to destroy Israel.


·         … 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?  And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that questionZOA response: Obama should have said that, since Hamas is now part of the PA, it is illegal and immoral for the US to fund the PA and we won’t do it. Despite the tone of seeming firmness, this simply lets the PA off the hook. Obama, even now, demands nothing of the PA. Obama has not demanded the abrogation of the Fatah/Hamas unity agreement. He has not threatened the PA with a cut in U.S. aid. He has merely asked the PA to “provide a credible answer” as to how negotiations can proceed. Hamas’s call for a genocide of the Jews is a violation of Article 3 of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, a violation which the contracting parties, including the U.S., have undertaken to punish, but Obama will not even hold the PA accountable for its alliance with it or condition further U.S. support for the PA on it abrogating its unity government agreement. By characterizing Hamas as an organization that only refuses to recognize Israel minimizes the horrific Nazi-like nature of Hamas. Obama should have said Hamas calls for the murder of every Jew and the destruction of America and Israel.


·         We “will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoricZOA response: Obama has never held the PA accountable for terror and incitement. To the contrary, since coming to office, he has rewarded the PA by dramatically increasing U.S. aid to the PA to almost $1 billion per year. But Obama demands nothing of the PA even now – no end to poisonous sermons in PA mosques, dehumanizing Jews and calling for holy war against them, no disbanding even of Fatah’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a U.S. recognized terrorist group. When Fatah united behind an extremist platform rejecting peace and promoting terrorism at its 2009 Bethlehem conference, the Obama Administration falsely claimed it had adopted a moderate platform and that any extremist statements did not bind it.  When the PA named a square after Dalal Mughrabi, the leader of the Fatah terrorists who perpetrated the 1978 coastal road massacre, the Obama Administration claimed that a “Hamas-run municipality” had been responsible for this. In short, the Obama Administration has never identified the PA as responsible for incitement and thus not penalized it for it. Since he has not held “the Palestinians accountable” in two and half years, his latest words are devoid of credibility.


·         the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories [sic]”: ZOA response: This is untrue. 42% of Judea and Samaria and all of Gaza, in which 98% of Palestinians live, is already under Palestinian control.


·         “… no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option … I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination.” ZOA response: Translation: the Palestinians have neither negotiated nor made concessions, so Israel must. Worse, Obama is essentially saying that even with a Fatah/Hamas unity government, Israel must negotiate and make concessions to the PA.


·         There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations.  They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe. And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the worldZOA response: Instead of saying forthrightly that the PA is violating its Oslo II peace agreements by seeking to circumvent negotiations and obtain statehood without making peace with Israel, Obama is saying that the Palestinians are too eager for peace. But as the PA has not taken a single step towards peace-making, Obama should be saying so and all upon the Pa to accept Israel as a Jewish state and renounce the so-called ‘right of return.’ He should also have acknowledged the enormous territorial and other concessions Israel has made to the PA over 17 years, only to receive more terrorism and rejection in return. Instead, he is calling on Israel to make more concessions. Obama calls for a Palestinian state yet he says nothing about the fact that the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas said in a recent NY Times op-ed that even Palestinian statehood won’t end his war against Israel. Abbas wrote, “Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice … A key focus of negotiations will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948” {Note: the non-binding resolution, rejected by all Arab parties at the time, on which the Palestinians claim a legally baseless so-called ‘right of return’}.


·         The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous stateZOA response: By calling for a contiguous Palestinian state, Obama is asking for Judea and Samaria to be linked territorially to Gaza, which means that Israel would no longer be contiguous.  Why does he care about Palestinian contiguity but not the contiguity of the already established state and ally of America, Israel.


·         In his speech to the State Department on May 19, President Obama said that “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.  And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.” In his speech to AIPAC on May 22, Obama also quoted himself saying in 2010 that “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” ZOA response: Palestinian efforts to delegitimize Israel and obtain statehood via the UN are not merely symbolic, but geared towards the attainment of real goals in a continuing war against Israel. Additionally, President Obama uttered no specific commitment to veto a Palestinian state declaration at the UN, only to oppose efforts to “chip away at Israel’s legitimacy,” something which he did not define. Additionally, it is simply untrue that President Obama is opposed to all efforts to delegitimize Israel or single it out in UN forums. Earlier this year, he vetoed a Security Council resolution declaring Jewish communities in the West Bank “illegal” – but only after Arab states refused to agree to U.S. amendment in the resolution singling out and condemning these communities as “illegitimate” – which Obama would have supported.


·         Also notable was President Obama’s refusal to call for any substantive measures against Syria, even as it brutally crushes a popular revolt. Obama only said that if Syria does not democratize, “President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad” ZOA response: Translation: Obama will do nothing to stop Assad from repressing Syrians and playing a spoiling role in the Middle East, propping up dangerous anti-Israel, anti-American terrorists like Hizballah and supporting Iran. Since the Syrian regime does not seek Western aid and investment, eschews the world economy and has already done without these things for years without altering its conduct, Obama merely promises more of the same Western inaction that has allowed the Syrian regime to do much as it pleases.


·         Obama did not discuss Iran’s continuing drive to obtain nuclear weapons or foreshadow any new measures to deter the regime from its dangerous course that imperils Israel, the U.S. and the West. He did not speak of further action against Iran he would take, nor even refer to any military option. He did not discuss, nor has he taken any action, nor has he foreshadowed taking any action, regarding the continuing substantive nuclear assistance Iran continues to receive from Russia, China and Turkey. Other than some limp words about Iran’s “hypocrisy” for claiming that it stands for Arabs protesting their repressive governments, Obama only noted that “the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail” – but without mentioning that he did nothing to help the 2009 Iranian protesters as the Iranian regime crushed their non-violent uprising, while on the other hand urging American allies like the Mubarak regime in Egypt to leave office immediately.


·         it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and TunisiaZOA response: This statement ignores the fact that, at the moment, the largest and best-organized political force in both countries is the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, a totalitarian movement that is viscerally hostile to Israel and the U.S. the Muslim Brotherhood is pledged to abrogating the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. It is likely that the future government in both countries will demonstrate this hostility. Given this, why has Obama given any such pledge of U.S. support, irrespective of the political outcome in both countries?  He also ignored the fact that the “new” Egypt brokered the merger between Abbas’ PA and Hamas. The signing ceremony actually took place in Cairo.  He also said nothing about Egypt now repeatedly threatening to abrogate the peace agreement with Israel while retaining the Sinai and the oil wells Israel relinquished in that agreement.  And Obama propped up the new potentially dangerous Muslim brotherhood regime by saying he would forgive $1B in Egyptian debt over to the US and continue the $2B in annual US aid!


·         The ZOA is not surprised by this hostile speech.  After all, in a meeting with Jewish leaders two months ago at the White House, President Obama said to us, “Is Israel serious about peace?  You US Jewish leaders must talk to your Jewish friends and relatives and search your souls – how badly do you want peace?  Israelis think this peace business is overrated; their life is good, their economy is good, and things are quiet…Israel’s partner is sincere in wanting a peaceful  settlement – everyone believes that.” 

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