Obama’s Claim of Commitment to Israel’s Security Hollow
June 6, 2011

Obama’s Claim of Commitment to Israel’s Security Hollow


Morton A. Klein, National President  

Daniel Mandel, Director, Center for Mideast Policy

Zionist Organization of America



Is President Barack Obama committed to Israel’s security? Reassuring bromides in his recent presidential addresses were nullified by specific statements that spell out dangerous Israeli concessions and disregard of Israeli vital interests.


Obama said that Israel must have secure, recognized borders “different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Yet this means little when the new borders are to be “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” and therefore virtually indistinguishable from those lines. Moreover, his unprecedented call for a Palestinian state to have “permanent Palestinian borders with … Jordan” would require Israel ceding the Jordan Valley, whose retention successive Israeli governments have regarded as vital to Israeli defense. The late Yitzhak Rabin said as much in his last speech to the Knesset in October 1995. Benjamin Netanyahu just reaffirmed it. Obama ignores this.


Instead, Obama calls now for a “full and phased Israeli withdrawal.” He also has refused to endorse the 2004 George W. Bush letter, stipulating that delineating a negotiated border must take account of Jewish communities that have risen over the years beyond the pre-1967 lines.


No previous U.S. president has ever suggested that issues of “territory and security” should be agreed upon first, before proceeding to negotiations on all other matters, including Jerusalem and Palestinian refuges and their millions of descendants. Upholding Israel’s basic security would mean repudiating the repatriation of the refugees and their descendants in Israel, but Obama did not. To the contrary, he has supported the so-called Saudi peace plan, which demands not only a return to the 1967 lines, but also the return of all refugees and their descendants to Israel.


Concern for Israel’s security would preclude a call for Israel to negotiate with a PA that has signed a unity agreement with the terrorist organization Hamas, which calls for a genocide of Jews. Yet Obama demands Israel negotiate with the PA. Concern for Israel security has not led Obama to pressure Egypt to close its Gaza border at Rafah, whose recent opening has enabled the flow of weaponry into Hamas-run Gaza. But he has spoken previously of the “legitimate aims” of Hamas and Hizballah.


Concern for Israeli security would not lead Obama to turn a blind eye to PA incitement to hatred and murder against Israel and Jews. Yet Obama has shown less interest than his predecessors in doing anything about it. The other week he reiterated that the U.S. “will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric.” But he never has – nor does he even now.


Obama has never identified the PA as responsible for incitement and thus not penalized it for it.

When, in August 2009, Fatah held a conference in Bethlehem, reaffirming its refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, glorifying terrorists by name, praising “armed struggle,” insisting on the so-called ‘right of return,’ and rejecting an end of claims in any future peace agreement with Israel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton astonishingly claimed that the Conference showed “a broad consensus supporting negotiations with Israel, and the two-state solution.” When in 2010, the PA named a Ramallah square after the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, Clinton falsely claimed that this ceremony was initiated by a “Hamas-run municipality.”


If Obama was genuine about holding the PA accountable, he would be demanding the disbanding of Fatah’s own Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a U.S. recognized terrorist group. He would demand the abrogation of the PA’s unity agreement with Hamas as a precondition of any future talks. He has done neither. Far from holding “Palestinians accountable,” Obama has consistently rewarded them, massively increasing aid to the PA to almost $1 billion per year.


For a year, Obama prohibited any new U.S. sanctions to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons – the existential looming threat to both Israel and the U.S. Yet, what further measures must be taken to stop Iran is precisely the issue Obama left untouched in his recent speeches. While he has insisted that he will do “everything” to stop Iran getting the bomb, Obama has ignored his own deadlines and achieved only limited international sanctions that provide exemptions for the Russians and Chinese who are actually enabling the Iranian nuclear program.


Other Obama stipulations on Israeli security prove on inspection to be groundless. For example, he said that a Palestinian state should be “non-militarized.” But no state has ever been subject to this condition, nor has anyone prevented a state from rearming. Moreover, legally, it is unlikely anyone could enforce demilitarization, even if it were a provision in a signed agreement. Worse, Obama’s stipulation looks meaningless, when coupled with his insistence that all states, including presumably a Palestinian state, must have the right to defend themselves.


Obama’s words and deeds not only fail to match his stated commitment to Israel’s security – they negate it.


Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (London: Routledge, 2004).


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