May 24, 2011
by Anne Bayefsky
There is some logic in the fact that President Obama has fled the country while Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Congress. With Obama's comments this past week on Israel, the president now appears to many as the most hostile sitting president in the history of the Jewish state.
A key casualty of the assault Obama launched this past week on Israel and its Prime Minister, is the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. When Palestinians move to declare statehood unilaterally in the fall with U.N. support, it will be President Obama himself who will have laid the groundwork.
Two years ago President Obama prompted Palestinians to withdraw from negotiations after he attempted to dictate to Israel the terms of a deal on the settlements issue. Now that the president has similarly projected what the territorial outcome "should be," Palestinians will abjure negotiations into the foreseeable future.
The mere lip service that the president paid to negotiations was heard around the world, especially in Palestinian circles. "While the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated…" Obama began, followed by a series of "should be" pronouncements.
The president's Sunday speech to the pro-Israel group AIPAC did not fundamentally change his earlier effort on Thursday as territorial fiat.
According to the president, the baseline of a final settlement "should be" the 1967 lines and any different outcome would be subject to "mutually agreed swaps." But "mutually agreed" entails a Palestinian veto, and the potential for their insisting on the indefensible 1967 lines within the Obama formula.
President Obama's 1967 baseline comment was no accident; it was a deliberate provocation. As he unabashedly told the AIPAC audience: "I know that stating these principles -- on the issues of territory and security -- generated some controversy…I wasn't surprised."
Mr. Obama has also sabotaged negotiations by refusing to assign responsibility for the current absence of negotiations where it belongs. As far as Obama is concerned, the fact that Hamas "is unwilling to recognize Israel's right to exist" simply "raises questions."
The President even professed ignorance about the path of Hamas, despite the group's Charter which calls for "Jihad" until Israel is "obliterated." In the president's words: "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection." If!
Those pushing a U.N.-backed unilateral declaration of statehood or independence (UDI), in lieu of negotiations, will also have taken sustenance from the President's remarks. He suggested such sentiments are eminently understandable:
"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…And that impatience is growing."
President Obama neglected to mention that statehood would come a lot faster if Palestinians didn't support leaders who are bent on genocide or refuse to talk.
Moreover, if Mr. Obama was in fact serious about stopping a U.N.-backed Palestinian UDI, he could do a lot more than simply chide them for making what he called a "symbolic" move. He could, for instance, lay out some unambiguous consequences for the day after, such as: terminating U.S. taxpayer dollars for UNRWA, the Palestinian "refugee" agency, since refugee status will be voided and all Palestinians rendered citizens of their declared state; moving the U.S. embassy to Israel's capital city Jerusalem, since delays awaiting a negotiated settlement will be groundless; stopping payment to the U.N.'s regular budget, since the UN will have gravely abrogated its legal obligations under the UN Charter, and pulling the U.S. out of the Middle East Quartet – the European Union's coveted entre into Arab-Israeli politics – since the Quartet's central "Roadmap" will have been negated.
He said none of the above. Having made the U.N. a centerpiece of his foreign policy, including championing the obsessively anti-Israel Human Rights Council, his speechifying about sidelining the organization wasn't very convincing.
The AIPAC speech was pure sophistry. The president promised "unshakeable opposition" to "efforts to chip away at Israel's legitimacy" and attempted to take credit for not attending one of the UN's racist "anti-racism" conferences back in 2009.
But he only pulled out of so-called "Durban II" after intense public pressure, just 48 hours before the meeting, ruining the prospect of coalition-building. And he refused to tell AIPAC whether he plans to go to "Durban III" – the first-ever world summit to be held in New York this coming September and intended as a vehicle for charging Israel with racism. Canada and Israel pulled out long ago. Where is America's unshakeable opposition?
President Obama's fawning remarks about Arab self-determination contrasted sharply with his treatment of Jewish self-determination. He taunted Israelis about not being able to protect themselves: "Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself." "Delay will undermine Israel's security…" He threatened Israelis with the specter of isolation and demanded they answer to every busybody in sight: "The international community is tired of an endless process…" "Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained…[T]he march to isolate Israel internationally…will continue to gain momentum…and it's already manifesting itself in capitals around the world."
Negotiations require mutual recognition of legitimacy and therefore offer the only path to ensuring a Palestinian commitment to coexistence with a Jewish state. By bullying Israel, a negotiated peace agreement between Arabs and Israelis is now all but impossible during Obama's tenure. 2012 cannot come soon enough.
Anne Bayefsky is no longer a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute.
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