President Barack Obama offered a polite (if generic) salute to the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday, and Vice President Joe Biden honored Sharon (and Israel) by participating in today’s funeral. Yet both Obama and Biden actually betrayed the man to whom they are keen to be seen paying tribute today, when they insisted in 2009-10 that all Jewish settlement–even in Jerusalem–across the 1967 lines was off-limits.
Today, they praise Sharon’s sacrifices for peace–but the reward for those sacrifices was official recognition by the U.S. government, in the person of President George W. Bush, that large settlement blocs beyond the 1949 armistice lines (i.e. the 1967 lines) would remain in Israeli hands. The Bush administration also recognized that Palestinian “refugees” of the 1948 war would not be settled in Israel–a promise John Kerry is trying to undo.
Much of what Obama, Biden, and Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton have tried to impose on Israel in recent years violates common sense as well as official understandings. There is also no doubt that Sharon would have been scathing in his criticism of Obama’s attempt to appease Iran, effectively at Israel’s expense. Words matter, but to Barack Obama, they turn out to be rather cheap. The deeds are what count–and the deeds are a betrayal.