President Barack Obama addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) today, and doubled down on his call for a return to the “1967 lines” as the basis for restarting negotiations towards a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
Declaring “that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another,” Obama proceeded to tell three lies about Israel and his administration’s policy towards it.
1. Lie #1: President Obama’s call for negotiations on the “1967 lines” was nothing new and has always been the policy of the United States.
There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. Administrations…. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.
In fact, previous administrations have all rejected the 1967 lines as the starting point for negotiations. Obama’s predecessors have all acknowledged that Israel would retain some of the territory it gained during the 1967 conflict. What Obama did on Thursday–and again today–was to deny publicly that which has been acknowledged privately by the Palestinians, and publicly by the U.S., hurting Israel’s negotiating position badly.
2. Lie #2: The Obama administration has defended Israel strongly at the United Nations.
So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it.
Through revisionist history, Obama tries to hide his role in enabling anti-Israel forces at the UN. He gave the Durban Review Conference legitimacy by joining negotiations on its agenda rather than declaring, as Canada did, that the U.S. would boycott. His response to the Goldstone Report was weak, and his veto of a Security Council Resolution condemning Israel was accompanied by a statement conveying the opposite effect.
3. Lie #3: The new realities of the Middle East make Israeli-Palestinian negotiations more urgent than ever.
First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly….Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace….And third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders.
First, the growth of the Arab population west of the Jordan (evidently Obama considers Israeli Arabs to be “Palestinians”) has been greatly exaggerated. Second, technology–an oblique reference to negotiations with Syria (!), not the Palestinians–has made it easier for Israel to defend itself without an agreement. Third, instability in the Arab world–including the new Hamas-Fatah unity government–demands caution, for both Israel and the U.S.
Add to these three lies Obama’s rosy portrayal of his appeasement of Iran, his failure to explain why he broke his 2008 promise to AIPAC to insist on an “undivided Jerusalem,” and the fact that his latest fight with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is only the latest of many Obama has picked, and Obama’s speech to AIPAC is revealed as nothing more than a resort to spin and sentiment to save an unsafe policy.
Obama’s speech contrasted sharply with that of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who preceded the president at the podium. Hoyer rejected Obama’s “1967 lines” approach, and called for the Palestinians to recognize Israel and return to negotiations without preconditions. If it is still true that support for Israel in Washington is a bipartisan consensus, President Obama is clearly on its margins, if not completely outside of it.