ZOA: Obama’s Jerusalem Speech Supports/Praises Palestinians; Blames Israel For No Peace
News Press Release
March 22, 2013

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized and expressed concern at President Barack Obama’s speech delivered before a carefully selected audience of Israeli university students in Jerusalem in which he astonishingly urged students to loudly pressure the democratically-elected Israeli government towards a concessionary policy and on Palestinian statehood; uttered praise rather than criticism of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah/Palestinian Authority, which continues incitement to hatred and murder against Israel and refused to negotiate for virtually all of the past four years and has turned down two generous offers of statehood; and repeated calls for a Palestinian state that would be Jew-free.

(President Obama made a number of important, positive statements during his visit, which the ZOA has noted in detail in a separate press release that can be found here).

President Obama could not have delivered such an address to Israel’s democratically elected representatives in the Knesset – a venue in which he declined to speak, contrary to custom – because most of Israel understands that Palestinians are unwilling to make peace with Israel, even if that means forgoing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and therefore they would reject his argument. Instead, President Obama gave a speech to a carefully selected collection of Israeli university students not broadly representative of Israeli attitudes who would respond well to his criticism of Israel and flat-earth statements about the willingness of Palestinians to make peace. At the same time, precisely those students least likely to agree with him were excluded. 

The ZOA has been told by authorities in Israel that students thought likely to disagree or protest President Obamas statements were weeded out. Additionally, only certain universities and colleges received invitations. Prominently not invited were students from Ariel University in Samaria, which was likelier than most student bodies to have students that disagree with President Obama. This astonishing exclusion of Ariel students led left-wing Labor Knesset Member Nachman Shai to call on students to boycott President Obama’s speech.

The ZOA is deeply concerned and critical of the fact that, in his speeches in Israel, President Obama only criticized Israel while never criticizing Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) – nothing about its refusal to arrest terrorists or dismantle terrorist groups; its continuing incitement to hatred and murder of Jews in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps, about which President Obama has previously said he would hold Palestinians to account; or its refusal to place Israel on its maps or to educate its youth for peace and reconciliation, and its refusal to negotiate with Israel. Instead, he arrived with $500 million in aid to the PA and praised it for being a genuine peace partner for Israel. Indeed, President Obama did the opposite of what presidents do in such situations which is to praise his hosts and criticize the other side. He criticized his hosts and shockingly called on students to protest the recently-elected government’s policies while praising the other side. 

So offensive has been this speech to Israel’s government and members of the Knesset that a member of the governing coalition, Miri Regev of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu party called Obama’s speech “offensive to Netanyahu … I was surprised by his words about a Palestinian state, that he didn’t mention the word ‘Jerusalem’ and that he said, ‘Leaders must bring peace,’ as if Netanyahu doesn’t want peace.”

Several deeply troubling excerpts from President Obama’s Jerusalem speech follow, with ZOA’s critique appended to them:

  • “while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I believe that. And they have a track record to prove it. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago [ZOA: In addition to Abbas and the PA’s manifest and documented failure to arrest terrorists, end incitement to hatred and murder and refusal to negotiate – about all of which President Obama either ignored or inverted the truth – Mahmoud Abbas said only last week  that, “As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas. So why are they labeled as terrorists? In my opinion, [the EU] can remove Hamas [from the list], why not?” Hamas is a terrorist organization that calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. The Fatah/PA likewise do not accept Israel’s existence, so Abbas is correct to observe that they have similar policies. Additionally, Abbas referred to all of Israel as occupied in his UN General Assembly speech when he referred to “63 years of occupation,” the PA does not place Israel on its maps, the Fatah Emblem shows all of Israel labeled ‘Palestine’ and draped in a Palestinian headdress and the PA continues to demand the Israel-destroying so-called ‘right of return.’ Yet President Obama makes flat-earth statements to the contrary and praises Abbas. In this context we are also concerned that, while President Obama did call upon Hamas to “renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist,” he did not describe it as a terrorist organization, as he did with Hizballah. Nor did he condemn Fatah as a terrorist organization, despite the fact that it has never recognized Israel (only the PA has formally has done that) and maintains a recognized terrorist group, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade ].


  • “Political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.  You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things … Your voices must be louder than those who would drown them out … I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. ” [ZOA: It is remarkable that when, in 2009, Iranians were risking their lives demonstrating against rigged elections by their dictatorial, anti-Semitic, terror-sponsoring and nuclear-bomb seeking regime, President Obama refused to get involved, calling it an internal Iranian matter. Here, however, he actively sought, on Israeli soil, for his orchestrated, cherry-picked audience of left-leaning Israeli students to start pressuring their democratically-elected government to adopt concessionary policies to those who do not accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This was a breathtaking insult to the recently democratically-elected Israeli government. This is no way to treat one’s host].


  • “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank — or displace Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land” [ZOA: The Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestinians. provide for Israeli forces to maintain security in Judea and Samaria. It would not need to do so were there not Palestinian terrorism. President Obama’s litany about Palestinian restrictions and sufferings ignores the fact that all of this could be eliminated speedily if Palestinians were actually willing to accept Israel as a Jewish state, cease incitement and support for the terrorism it fuels and negotiate in good faith to make peace. Tragically, they are not and numerous polls attest to this. To name two: an October 2010 Palestinian Arab World Research & Development (AWRAD) poll found that 83% of Palestinians desire a single state upon the territory of present-day Israel, West Bank and Gaza. Also a July 2011 Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCP) poll found that only 34% of Palestinians accept the idea of a peaceful Palestinian state living alongside Israel as the solution to the Arab/Israeli war, as against 61% who rejected the idea. Finally, Israel investigates, prosecutes and punishes perpetrators of violence, Arab and Jewish. Jewish violence in the territories is quite rare, despite the killing and maiming of thousands of Jews by Palestinians. President Obama’s statement that it does not is an ugly canard. The only occasions Israel has removed families from homes is when family members have engaged in terrorism and murdered Israelis – an anti-terrorist measure that dates back to the British Mandate. Under current conditions, a Palestinian Fatah/Hamas taste would be a racist, terrorist state – the last thing we want or need in the Middle East].


  • “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn” [ZOA: President Obama again makes the fallacious argument that Jews living and building homes and schools in Judea and Samaria, part of the biblical and legal Jewish homeland earmarked for Jewish settlement since the 1920 San Remo Conference, are obstacles to peace, rather than Palestinian non-acceptance of Israel as Jewish state, Arab and Muslim supremacism and recourse to terrorism, none of which he mentioned. It is both factually wrong and a moral travesty to argue that people, simply because they are Jews, should not be allowed to move into Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. President Obama’s efforts to stop Jews from living in or moving to these territories assists Palestinian and Arab propaganda efforts to distract focus from the real issue of Palestinian extremism and non-acceptance of Israel which are the root of the conflict. It lends credence to the false notion that peace can be built by making these territories judenrein. Jewish communities that have been established in these territories since 1967 have not harmed Palestinians or the prospects of peace: these Jewish communities are built on less than 4% of the land in question, no new communities have been founded since 1993 and the existing ones have not expanded geographically since that date. The idea that Jewish communities take up Palestinian-owned land and harm Palestinian communities is propaganda. Why cannot 700,000 Jews live among 2 million Arabs when 1.4 million Arabs live peacefully among 6 million Jews? It is truly surreal that when Palestinians neither accept Israel’s existence as Jewish state, nor stop terrorism and incitement to hatred and murder against her, President Obama acts as though the real obstacle to peace is Jews living and building their communities in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has a fundamental legitimacy and poses no obstacle to a true peace if Palestinians are ready for one, so President Obama’s opposition to Jews building homes there would remain inappropriate even if the prospect of genuine peace negotiations with a truly peaceful Palestinian partner were possible –which they are not].


  • “So many Palestinians, including young people, have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations” [ZOA: Numerous polls of Palestinians, which we have outlined previously here, show either Palestinian majorities or large pluralities supporting terrorism against Israelis. To cite one: a July 2011 Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCP) poll shows that that an overwhelming 73% of Palestinians agree with the hadith (Islamic tradition ascribed to Muhammad), quoted by the terrorist group Hamas in its Charter, about the need to murder Jews. Also, inasmuch as Palestinian aspirations encompass the eventual elimination of Israel, it is little comfort that many Palestinians are pursuing non-violent means to achieve the same nefarious result. In the meantime, in addition to the violence of terrorist organizations, Palestinians contribute to throw rocks and molotov cocktails routinely].


  • “Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained — and as president, I’ve said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran” [ZOA: Although this statement is welcome to the extent it reaffirms his oft-stated commitment to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear power, we remain troubled by the fact that neither here nor elsewhere has President Obama stated explicitly that he will resort if necessary to the use of military force to stop Iran. If he was going to finally make this explicit, Jerusalem would have been the obvious place to do so. He did not. This suggests that President Obama either does not accept the possibility that his policy of sanctions and negotiations can fail, or he does not intend to use military force, even if and when sanctions and negotiations have conclusively failed].


  • “I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin — reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon and then faced terror and rockets. Across the region, you’ve extended a hand of friendship, and all too often you’ve been confronted with rejection and, in some cases, the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and I also understand why too many Israelis, maybe an increasing number, maybe a lot of young people here today, are skeptical that it can be achieved.” [ZOA: While this statement, on its face, is very positive because it observes that Israeli is subjected to aggression and hostility even after making major concessions, it is also deeply troubling because it carefully leaves out any reference to the extraordinary peace offers made by former Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert in 2000 and in 2008 respectively. In both cases, Israeli governments offered the Palestinians offered over 90% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and substantial parts of Jerusalem. Yet, in both cases, the Palestinian leadership said no and made no counter-offer. In short, Israel has made extraordinary offers which Mahmoud Abbas’ PA did not accept. But President Obama will not publicly acknowledge this because it would destroy his claim that the Palestinian leadership is genuinely committed to peace and that therefore Israel needs to make further concessions].


  • “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine” [ZOA: Here, President Obama repeats the common but false mantra about Israeli Jews being tuned into a minority in their own land. But Israel is not about to be demographically overwhelmed from within: detailed and reputable studies both attest to this and demonstrate the fraudulence of contrary claims. The American-Israel Demographic Research Group, for example, has amassed impressive evidence on both scores and projected a two-thirds Jewish majority in the land west of the Jordan River (minus Gaza) in the decades to come. President Obama is either unaware of this or ignores it. In any case, Israel has ceded to Palestinian control all of Gaza and 42% of Judea and Samaria, where 98% of Palestinians live].


  • “Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war … the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders — those days are over” [ZOA: To the extent that such days were ever a reality – only very few Arab autocrats have ever proved willing to make peace of any kind with Israel – such leaders no longer exist principally because Obama has assisted the wave of Islamist movements ascending to power and replacing them in several Middle Eastern states. Yet Obama asks for Israel to reverse the trend of international isolation through peace-making, something which is only possible on the assumption that the Palestinians and wider Arab world are willing to make peace, which Obama insists, contrary to the evidence, that it is. Any possibility of peace is in Palestinians hands, not Israeli hands. They currently refuse to negotiate and have rejected two generous Israeli peace offers].

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