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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in At TMV, International | 19 comments

Bibi Thinks Oval Office Is Place To Give Obama a “Teachable Moment”

In a meeting that reportedly oozed with awkwardness, President Barack Obama met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and Netanyahu apparently felt that with the cameras going it was a perfect place to offer Obama a “teachable moment.” Literally. With a lecture.

A smart move? Or one that will sour Israel’s critics here and abroad and prove to be unwise in dealing with the Obama administration. Moments such as this usually take place quietly, via diplomatic channels:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to think he needed to educate President Obama on some issues today, so in the Oval Office he described in some detail to the president a history of the refugee problem in the region dating back 63 years, as well as his view on the need for Israel to be able to defend itself in the context of thousands of years of Jewish suffering.

“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” Netanyahu said to the president. “Because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.”

Netanyahu, whose father is a retired academic, offered the president repeated history lessons, saying Jews have “been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions. But I can say that even at the dearth of — even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel.”

Yesterday, President Obama angered Netanyahu by — for the first time — stating as a matter of U.S. policy that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

President Obama acknowledged this disagreement today, saying “obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends.”

President Obama invited reporters into the Oval Office after he and Netanyahu had spoken one on one for more than an hour and a half. Their discussions went past the scheduled time allotted to the point that they canceled their working lunch.

Here’s ABC’s report:

Here’s AP’s report which notes that Netanyahu wasted little time “shooting down” Obama’s comments from the day before:

Republicans have been attacking Obama due to his position — which many experts say is basically the same position that President George W. Bush had. The big difference: Bush had an “R” in front of his party identification and 2012 elections and the political jockeying that election year entails is paramount these days.

Here’s a cross section of reaction to Obama, Netanyahu and the latest developments swirling around the Middle East:
Andrew Sullivan:

My hope, for what it’s worth, is to protect the possibility of a majority Jewish state to survive with its capital in Jerusalem for ever. I’m a Zionist. Always have been. And strongly so. I think Obama is doing his best to bring it about, primarily because it is America’s interest, but also because it is in Israel’s. And despite the hysteria from the Fox-Likud fringe, Obama’s words yesterday toward the Palestinians were stark, essentially putting Abbas on the spot on the Hamas charter, for example. And yet this leader of a foreign government thinks he can essentially dictate terms for an American president and attempt to corral the US Congress to side explicitly with a foreign leader over the American president in foreign policy.

Don’t push your luck, Bibi. Others have with Obama and they have learned that he is often more canny than they are with political jujitsu. Obama’s usual tactic: gently and subtly prompting his foes to self-destruct. I just hope that in this critical juncture in the Middle East, Netanyahu doesn’t take his country with him.

Yid With Lid:

It was a stunning tableau, a President of the United States sitting back and glaring while the Prime Minister of Israel pushed back against the words made by the POTUS yesterday. Both parties made their presentations in friendly diplomatic words, but Netanyahu gave the President a “friendly” dressing down, his words were instructive and firm. You could tell by the body language that Bibi was letting the President know that he was not going to give in, and Obama was very angry….

….The Prime Minister proceeded to give the President a dose of reality, and the President gave the PM a dose of his unhappy glare. …I think Obama got his answer and it was vintage Netanyahu.

Normally I would object to a foreign to School the President of the United States, but in this case it was justified. This happened in response to President Obama throwing Israel under the bus. And unilaterally ripping up an agreement made between Israel and the United States. What made it even worse was that Obama’s people had just assured the Israeli leader that the 1967 borders would not be brought up during the speech. Keeping that in mind perhaps Bibi was a little too soft on the POTUS.

-American Spectator’ John Guardiano:

I’m a conservative, a strong friend and supporter of Israel, and I like the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. But like The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg, I was taken aback by Bibi’s statement of disrespect for President Obama…

…That’s not a smart move on Bibi’s part, because disrespecting our president compels American Israeli supporters such as myself to rally to Obama’s side.
It’s obvious that Netanyahu and Obama don’t like each other. Their hostility dates back to Obama’s early days in office when Obama called on Netanyahu to halt Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Netanyahu refused.
Both men have legitimate concerns. However, Netanyahu does himself and Israel no favors when he publicly disrespects our president.

The Atlantic’s Jeffry Goldberg’s post got a lot of attention and needs to be read in full. Here’s part of it:

For whatever reason, I tend to react strongly when a foreign leader disrespects the United States, and its President. I didn’t like it when Hugo Chavez of Venezuela insulted President Bush; I don’t like listening to Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan lecture the U.S. on its sins, and I’m not happy when certain Pakistani leaders gin-up righteous indignation about American behavior when it was their country that served as a refuge for the greatest mass murderer in American history.

And so I was similarly taken aback when I read a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress.”

So Netanyahu “expects” to hear this from the President of the United States? And if President Obama doesn’t walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.? Will he cease to fight for the U.S. in the United Nations, and in the many international forums that treat Israel as a pariah?

I don’t like this word, “expect.” Even if there weren’t an imbalance between these two countries — Israel depends on the U.S. for its survival, while America, I imagine, would continue to exist even if Israel ceased to exist — I would find myself feeling resentful about the way Netanyahu speaks about our President. Netanyahu had an alternative, of course: He could have said, as he got on the plane to Washington, where today — awkward! — he will be meeting with President Obama: “The President today delivered a very fine speech. His condemnation of Hamas and Iran, his question about whether the Palestinians actually seek peace; his strong language against Syria; his recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; his re-assertion of the unshakeable bond between our two nations — all of this and more brought joy to my heart. There are a couple of points in the speech, having to do with borders and refugees, that I would like to clarify with the President when I see him, and I’m looking forward to a constructive dialogue on these few issues.”

Of course, he didn’t say this. Instead he threw something of a hissy fit.

Read the whole thing.

Steve Benen:

I think the right’s reaction to President Obama’s speech on the Middle East officially went off the rails this morning when a prominent right-wing blogger blasted Jeffrey Goldberg as a “far-left Israel hater.”

The Atlantic’s Goldberg is certainly capable of defending himself against such nonsense, but I’d note for context that he’s politically conservative, Jewish, and staunchly pro-Israel.

But Goldberg has drawn the ire of some on the far-right for responding to the president’s remarks with thoughtful and sensible pieces, noting among other things the reference to 1967 borders is neither new nor radical; media coverage has been misleading; and Republican reactions have been overheated for no reason.

Weasel Zippers:

It’s worth noting Netanyahu made the above statement to Obama in front of the cameras after they had already met in private for over an hour and a half.

Freedom’s Lighthouse:

It appears President Obama’s decision to call for Israel to pull back to 1967 border lines was his thin-skinned response to the fact Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to a Joint Session of Congress on Tuesday, May 24. Obama wanted to pre-empt Netanyahu’s speech, and not allow him to take the initiative by proposing any kind of proposal to move peace forward in the Middle East. When Netanyahu got wind of what Obama was about to do yesterday, he reportedly had a “furious phone call” with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – but to no avail. Obama went right ahead and called for the 1967 border lines…What a way to run American Foreign Policy. With Obama, it’s all about the big “I.” His ego means everything.

The Christian Science Monitor:

Obama, as he had in his speech the day before, said the Palestinians have “very difficult questions to answer about the agreement between Fatah and Hamas.” Saying Hamas as it presents itself “is not a partner for a … peace process,” the president said Palestinians “will have to explain” how they expect to proceed with peace talks even as they plan to share governing with a group that officially rejects Israel’s right to exist.

Netanyahu was more categorical still, saying Israel would never sit down with any Palestinian government that includes the extremist Islamists. “Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas,” he said, before concluding that the organization ruling the Gaza Strip is “the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.”

Both Obama and Netanyahu will address the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington Sunday. Netanyahu then speaks Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.

Despite the hearty handshakes and public rift-repairing, the two leaders nevertheless demonstrated differing perceptions of the tumult in the Middle East. While Obama preferred to refer to a time of “opportunity,” Netanyahu said he would not permit a “time of extraordinary instability in the Middle East” to “jeopardize Israel’s survival.”

On the other end of the spectrum from AIPAC, other groups calling themselves both “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace” – like the J Street organization – are promoting the idea that the real “existential threat” to Israel’s survival is resistance like Netanyahu’s to moving forward on a two-state solution.

The next few days are likely to demonstrate to Netanyahu whether either of these two visions resonates today in America.

The New York Times’ The Lede provides context — including the fact that Netanyahu was prepared before he got there to deliver the lecture:

On Friday morning, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that is Mr. Netanyahu “is prepared for a confrontation with President Obama,” because, in the words of one of Mr. Netanyahu’s aides, “Obama apparently does not understand the reality in the Mideast.”

An unnamed Israeli official on board the plane taking Mr. Netanyahu to Washington echoed that phrase, telling Reuters that Mr. Obama’s speech suggested that “Washington does not understand the reality,” of “what we face.”

A member of Mr. Netanyahu’s delegation to Washington went further, telling Attila Somfalvi, a correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth: “The truth must be told and the prime minster only speaks the truth. Peace cannot be based on delusions. Such a peace would crash into the cliffs of Mideast reality.”

Mr. Somfalvi also reported: “The prime minster had spoken with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a few hours prior to the president’s speech, expressing his rage over Obama’s intent to support a peace accord based on the 1967 borders.”

As The Lede explained on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu has for decades resisted American pressure to start negotiations based on Israel’s frontiers in 1967. In 1992, as an aide to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Mr. Netanyahu said that an Israeli state without the territory it seized in 1967 would be in such peril that it would have, “the borders of Auschwitz.”

Verum Serum:

I have the sneaking suspicious that these two men are “none too fond” of one another. President Obama looks mighty uncomfortable here. I don’t know if it’s what Netanyahu is saying or what he’s afraid he might say next.

Maybe it’s just that Netanyahu is right about Obama’s demand for concessions by Israel as he seems unwilling to demand anything concrete from the Palestinians.


As we have frequently observed, President Obama doesn’t know much about history. Netanyahu seizes the opportunity to do a little homeschooling.

“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” Netanyahu said to the president. “Because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.” I’m quite sure that Obama couldn’t care less, but Netanyahu figures the American people respectfully beg to differ.


Normally these Oval Office grip-and-grins begin with a few minutes of blah-blah from the president about America’s enduring bond with the other leader’s country, followed by a minute or so from that leader about the “productive discussion” they just had, and that’s it. Not this time: Netanyahu takes off here for a good seven minutes, parts of which are so cutting — the conclusion about history not giving the Jewish people another chance is simply devastating — that it’s hard to believe it was extemporaneous. In fact, by the end he’s facing Obama and addressing him personally, just to add to the theater. Bibi knew this would be his golden opportunity to pay Obama back for yesterday’s speech, and darned if he didn’t seize it. It’s riveting. O was probably completely blindsided by it too, but no doubt realized quickly that this little history lesson would soon go viral in the media and online. Hopefully no meaningful agreements were reached earlier in their private meeting, because if they were, you can forget about ‘em now.

No More Mr. Nice Blog:

I suppose it’s not surprising, but I’m struck by just how delighted right-wingers are these days when the president of the United States is insulted and embarrassed by a foreign leader. A few years go, wasn’t it treasonous to root for the president to fail, especially on foreign policy, and to have schadenfreude when another foreign leader rebuffed him?

…Obviously, of course, they don’t consider Obama the president of the real America, and, in fact, they probably think of Netanyahu as a more patriotic American. Truthfully, if he could enter the GOP primaries, he’d have a serious chance at winning.

Left Coast Rebel:

Netanyahu flatly and resolutely told Obama “no” to the 1967 lines. Netanyahu looked tense and firm, blood-shot eyes showed clear fatigue and concern. It’s no wonder.

Absolutely historical. I have never seen the leader of a foreign nation, and ally, say “no” to a United States president like this in such a manner. I wonder if it has ever taken place? Can you think of anything that points to how out of league Obama is?

What Netanyahu said is exactly what he should have said and what I would expect our president to say to the leader of another nation; given we were being pushed into a precarious position, against our interests and safety…

Which is exactly what Obama is doing to Israel.

The Jersusalem Post’s Herb Keinon says this is not a matter of personalities:

This isn’t a personal crisis, it is not the result of a ”bad connection” or “bad blood” between the leaders. Rather, it is reflective of significantly different way of viewing reality. Even were Obama and Netanyahu to get along as swimmingly as Prince William and Kate Middleton, wide chasms in how each views their country’s interests and what is and is not possible would still separate the two. Obama essentially believes in the land for peace formula, and that what it will take to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict is a painful ceding of Israeli land. Netanyahu, on the other hand, believes, based on past experience, that this will not do the trick nor ensure Israel’s security — so forget about it.

Moreover, there is also a significant rift regarding timing.

“For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet,” Obama said during his speech Thursday evening. “The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.”

“I disagree,” Obama said. “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.”

The person he is disagreeing with is Netanyahu, because Netanyahu believes that with everything else happening in the Arab world, and Israel really not knowing what will happen to any of its regional partners — Egypt, Jordan and the PA with the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation — this is not the time to delve forward and take huge risks. Rather, he believes this is the time to step back and let the dust settle before taking daring next moves. And that, indeed, is a fundamentally different way of viewing the current regional reality.

The differences are real and genuine. Neither Obama, facing re-election next year and a divided Congress, nor Netanyahu — with Opposition leader Tzipi Livni blaming him for poisoning Israeli-US ties — need this squabble right now. It doesn’t help Obama with his Jewish constituency, and being cast as the US-Israel relationship-wrecker is not exactly the ticket Netanyahu wants to ride on in his next elections.

MJ Rosenberg in The Huffington Post:

There was absolutely nothing about President Barack Obama’s Middle East speech to get excited about (and even less in his statement following Friday’s meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu). The president did not even attempt to set out an action plan; he offered broad principles, ones that have been offered before by five previous presidents.

He delivered the speech in an effort to get the jump on Netanyahu who is in town to address Congress and AIPAC. Bibi’s goal is to mobilize his followers against any U.S. efforts to promote an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Netanyahu, who grew up in the United States, is a de facto Republican and, as in 1998 when President Clinton was in office, he wants to strengthen the GOP vis a vis the Democrats.

Delivering the speech was probably a mistake. But Obama felt that he had to deliver it — to preempt Netanyahu’s war-mongering with some good pro-Israel boilerplate and to neutralize some of the opposition to U.S. policies toward Israel that is weakening our standing with the evolving Arab democracies.

For obvious national security reasons, the United States cannot afford to have a new generation of Arab democrats in nations as significant as Egypt hating us because they view America as being in Israel’s pocket. A strong rhetorical endorsement of peace would both help neutralize Netanyahu’s demagoguery and defuse opposition to both America and Israel in the Muslim world. Meanwhile, it would please Netanyahu’s followers.

Michael Reagan:

Israel Today reports that a former top official in the U.S. intelligence community, speaking on condition of anonymity, is convinced “that the Obama administration is about to break America’s long ties of friendship with Israel, and maybe even take steps toward the dissolution of the Jewish State.”

The administration is preparing to “provide more support to Arab countries [with] financial and military aid, undercutting Israel’s defense efforts all while pushing Israel to succumb to the pressure of unreasonable demands designed to end with their political annihilation as a nation,” the source remarked; Obama’s effort is likely to be subtle, and implemented over several years.

This is nothing less than an abomination. In Israel we have just one reliable ally in one of the world’s most explosive areas, and America can ill afford do allow its chief executive to treat the Jewish state shoddily.

It has also been reported that Israeli officials have lately noted what they called “a marked increase in the pressure from Washington to more rapidly acquiesce to Arab land-for-peace demands.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reported to have said that Washington is none too pleased with Netanyahu’s refusal to commit to the creation of a sovereign Palestinian Arab state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Netanyahu’s conditions for Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian state warn that should the reconciliation accord between Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian parties, lead to Hamas becoming part of a Palestinian government, no peace will be negotiated.

“A government, half of whose members declare daily their intention to destroy the State of Israel is not a partner for peace,” he told the opening session of Parliament.

Past administrations, dating back to the Truman administration, have stood firmly behind the state of Israel, guaranteeing its security. That must continue to be U.S. policy.

During his visit to the U.S. this week, Netanyahu must be reassured that this policy remains in force under Barak Obama, and the president should treat him with respect and honor. He deserves nothing less.

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  • Jim Satterfield

    Obama did not say that the 1967 borders are what should be returned to. He said that is the starting point for negotiations. Yet the right wing consistently lies about what he said. In addition I think that Netanyahu would rather use Israel having absolute control over the West Bank and Gaza as the starting point. There is no real interest in the compromises needed to achieve true piece on either side of this conflict. I doubt there will even be serious negotiations for another generation, only what we’ve seen for years, negotiation as political posturing.

  • ShannonLeee

    Hmm…. maybe we should just let Israel fend for themselves for now on? There has to be consequences for their behavior.

  • SteveinCH

    I think those who are defending the President should decide which story they are going with. Is it the “this has always been US policy” argument or the “this is a bold move by the President” argument.

    It really cannot be both.

    My own view is that it is more the bold move argument. The President, as he is wont to do, was trying to split the difference and give both sides something. While it is true that the President’s statement is open to interpretation (because of the mutually agreeable trades point), it is also the case that assuming there were no mutually agreeable trades, the President’s statement requires a return to the 1967 borders. Thus, taken literally, the statement says Israel will return to the 1967 borders unless they can agree to swap land with the Palestinians. Those who think this has been US policy for a long time seem misinformed to me.

  • superdestroyer

    President Obama is fond of lecturing others. Now that President Obama is on the receiving end of the lecture, everyone of the left wants to claim how rude it is to lecture others.

    Please, try to be consistent in at least one topic.

    Intead of discussing where the negotiations should start. The real question is whether the Palestinians will ever negotiate in good faith. The answer so far is no and thus, what is Israel suppose to do about a group that is not honorable.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    “We must give up Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and return to the core of the territory that is the State of Israel prior to 1967, with minor corrections dictated by the reality created since then,”—Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, 2008

    Seems to me that Obama is far from an extremist on this one though the regular suspects seem to think this countries capitol is in Israel instead of DC. Our money, our interests and if they dont want to play then we should simply stop paying.

  • SteveinCH

    I agree with the last sentence.

    Although to be fair, I don’t think Olmert’s speech was in the mainstream of Israeli thinking

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Of course it isnt, hard choices in any direction are rarely in the mainstream of any nation but that does not mean that they are not realistic, necessary and far from extreme. The mainstream generally wants unicorns and puppies, for instance here we want lower taxes and more benefits for everyone. It is the mainstream consensus but it is also irrational. Israeli’s want peace and an end to the incessant fighting but they also want all the land…hmm sounds irrational to me as well, mainstream but again irrational. I would doubt Bibi would say that Olmert doesnt understand the history though, instead he would find another insult.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    Many nations and world powers have said “X border line will make our nation indefensible so we must keep this land we grabbed and no one can take it from us but we want peace with those we took it from promise” and most that have said that have only found peace after they lost the land they said that about. Germany said it about western France twice!

  • SteveinCH

    And Obama more or less wants them to give up all the land unless they can agree with their enemy to exchanges (and why would the enemy agree again?).

    Perhaps some point in the middle would be nice.

    This is hardly an area where I have real passion but I look at it this way.

    In 1967, Israel was attacked by its enemies. Israel won the battle (and won again in 73 or 74). As tends to happen when you win, Israel took territory as a consequence of its victory. The argument that it “should” give all of this territory back in exchange for peace would be a very challenging argument for me to buy into were I a citizen of Israel.

    The reason is the asymmetry of the exchange. I give you all the land now and I have no recourse if I don’t get peace later. That’s the crux of the argument from the Israeli side and it’s a pretty compelling argument to me.

    Israel’s mainstream position seems very rational to me. Whatever the solution, I need to maintain a defensible position in the (in my view fairly likely) circumstance that now or at some point in the future, my enemies decide to take away peace.

    As an aside, in feudal times, this would be solved by the taking of hostages against good behavior. Perhaps this would be a potential solution here as well…a conditional territorial exchange based on future peace. If the peace were breached at some point in the future, international actors would create a territorial solution even more disadvantageous to the Palestinians or the Israelis than the current state. Even that would be a hard thing to sell but at least it would be symmetrical which the land for peace rubric is not.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    The greatest comedy of the “indefensible position” is that in 67…they defended it just fine. Of course part II to the insanity of that argument is that now they have nukes…in what was supposed to be a nuke free ME lol.

    Israel can keep the land if it wants to but much as everything in this world it comes with a price. They won it and they can keep it but there will be no peace and their image with their neighbors will remain poisoned. Sooner or later the ME will run dry on oil and the US’s attention will shift elsewhere and then they will be on their own with those neighbors. The neighbors that they supported their dictators since it made their borders more safe. With many of those dictators removed do you think the surrounding populace will forgive and forget if Israel is doing nothing but continuing to dig in its heels? To be honest the Pal/Israeli issue is one that shouldnt have anything to do with their relations with their other neighbors but it does and therefore if they want peace they will have to make concessions and they need to do so prior to the US losing interest in the ME because they cant do this on their own.

    It is not 1967 anymore, their neighbors now have US made weaponry and are much better trained then they were in 67 and the Lebanon offensive was a PR debacle of the highest order because Israel’s enemies learned how to use their communication lines against them. In 67 they were fighting powers that were somewhat backward, now they would be fighting powers that where they are outmatched in tech know that they are and have ways around the difference. The cold war is also over and 67 in many ways was a proxy war between two powers now at peace, the US and the USSR. With that in mind it would be wise for Israel to move toward making peace and concessions that are likely to appease its neighbors prior to the US losing interest in the region which will likely happen in the next twenty years or so unless they would prefer to continue a stance that provokes the populace of its neighbors which will likely result in war in the future since their friendly surrounding dictators are going the way of the dodo.

    What do Syria and Israel have in common, shooting at protestors during the Arab spring and that will continue to look worse as long as it persists. Israel is no longer the “only democracy in the ME” it is one of many and they have been in support of those that fought against that trend and the best way to allow the world to forget that is to shift away from the habit of ensuring Israeli democracy and peace by ensuring no other nations in the region have it. Again many nations have claimed land that they invaded to ensure their “peace” only to find that the cost of keeping said land was perpetual war and historically over and over again giving that land up for peace HAS resulted in peace and keeping it has resulted in more war. Obama said that the 67 borders was the starting point and that land swaps would need to take place which is a far cry from “go back to the 67 borders as a default if you cant make land swaps.” Israel should maybe stop building more settlements if it is so worried about those that settles safety, they are building on land they will be forced to trade for peace and doing so makes it rather obvious that they prefer land to peace. Preferring land to peace is their right but it has a long history of resulting in a nation having neither peace nor the land they so coveted in the end.

    Also Olmert lost 3% in approval for the same 67 borders stance, hardly something that is any more extreme of a stance than Bibi’s is now. The only difference is that Bibi’s stance has yet to result in peace and Olmert’s has yet to be attempted. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

  • SteveinCH


    Believe what you like as you always do ; )

    The negotiation is inherently asymmetric. Until the asymmetry is addressed, a solution will not be forthcoming.

    One more thing, you said Obama’s statement is different than saying “go back to 67 if you can’t agree on mutual swaps”. How do you see the difference? I heard him say the solution should be 67 and “mutually agreed swaps”. If there are no mutually agreed swaps, wouldn’t that mean 67? To me, at least, that’s a pretty reasonable reading of his comments.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    I think to be reasonable he would have had to say it. It sounds like the type of thing that the Pals would try to say since this would benefit them but since that is not what was said it would be ignored. If that is what he meant wouldnt he be signaling that he will NOT veto the vote in the UN in September? After all that would be the easy way to achieve that 67 border goal.

  • DaGoat

    The way I read the speech is Obama is saying the 1967 borders are the default borders, and any changes would have to be mutually agreed upon. More importantly that seems to be the way Netanyahu understood him. You have to wonder why in a speech which was largely nebulous platitudes and anecdotes, Obama chose to say something specific. He could have said “mutually agreed upon borders” and left it at that.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    DaGoat-It could have to do with the fact that Israel seems to believe that if they wait long enough they will get all the land they want and to the rest of the world they are seeming more and more like they are running out of time. The September UN vote will be ugly unless Israel is making a huge and public effort for peace, even if it is merely a PR version. If the US vetoes the UN vote and Israel has made no move to make concessions the US will be dealing with more of a PR nightmare in the ME than it has since the 70’s. If the US vetoes the vote and Israel is making public concessions toward peace then the optics look a good deal better for Israel and the US since it can be argued that not vetoing it could have harmed the process. The Pals are digging in their heels now because between the documents from the Palestinian papers, which noted that they were willing to make huge concessions and Israel STILL refused to hear it, and the continued settlement construction the PR is on their side and the US will likely pay a heavy price for a veto in the price of oil and whether or not it is ever again considered an honest broker of peace in the region. To be honest though I do not know why anyone thinks at this point that the US has anything other than Israeli desires in the region in mind considering our history.

  • TheMagicalSkyFather

    You may want to quickly tell The Guardian and Al Jazeera that since they are the ones that authenticated them. They are hardly WorldNutDaily or Fox News, meaning they actually have a rather good reputation for NEWS as opposed to propaganda. Funny part is that the papers were compiled in reaction to the Israeli’s blaming all failures on Arafat so some began to document themselves to ensure that could not be done again.

    Truth my friend isnt about left or right it is about reality and it is based on authenticated documentation…oddly much like the Pal papers. The story is that Israel thinks it is in a strong position so it has no interest in peace and the Pals are so desperate to make peace that they are willing to sell out their own voters desires to get it. No one comes out of those documents looking nice but it does put a giant BS stamp on the entire “Israel is merely a victim” meme that is currently popular.

  • DLS

    A true teachable moment, with needed teaching, indeed!

  • DLS

    It was written:

    DaGoat-It could have to do with the fact that Israel seems to believe that if they wait long enough they will get all the land they want and to the rest of the world they are seeming more and more like they are running out of time.

    I’ve made similar remarks about one specific issue, having made this observation, and how it is in a way similar to Japan’s not apologizing for its early-mid 20th century abuses of its neighbors in eastern Asia.

    The Arabs claim “right of return” for the Arabs who fled Israel in 1948. (It has nothing to do with the descendants of these people.) I’ve noted for a long time (thinking about Japan while noting it) that the claim of “right of return” dies when those 1948 Arabs die.

  • DLS

    (For those who need an explanation:) Japan’s victims’ demand or desire for an apology from Japan dies when the victims have died.

    All Japan has to do is “wait them out.” End of controversy, then.

    The same is true for the “right of return” Israeli-Arab controversy.

  • jdledell

    The James Baker Institute at Rice University has had access to much of the information from the Olmert/Abbas negotiations for a long time. See the following link:

    The Olmert offer to keep 6% of the land for the large settlements was countered by an offer of 1.9%. The key sticking points were Har Homa and Ariel. Thus the parties were about 4% apart and with a little help from the US probably could have gotten over the hump. This was about the same differences that remained after Taba.

    Both Barak and Olmert were coming to the end of their reign and things fell apart as a result.

    Netanyahu is different than either Barak or Olmert. He really does believe that he can stall the negotiations long enough to make a viable Palestinian state impossible. I have listened to Netanyahu and all his coalition coherts speak on the subject and ALL of them tell the same story – a Palestine, if ever, will be nothing more than 5 cities (Jenin, Nablus, Jericho, Bethlahem and Hebron) unconnected to each other as a form of autonomy. I’be heard this every trip I’ve taken to Israel over the last couple years. Remember, when Netanyahu and Abbas met last year to negotiate before the settlement freeze ended, Abbas handed him a detailed peace proposal to held start the discussions. Netanyahu refused to accept it and refused to offer his own plan. He still refuses to tell the other side what he has in mind.

    The idea that the 67 borders are indefensible is ridiculous. A demilitarized Palestinian state with a few thousand rifles is no match against Israel. If other countries had a military build up on Israel’s borders, Israel’s satellites and/or spies would detect it long before it posed a problem. The IAF would immeditaely destroy it. Israel would make a pre-emtive strike just as they did in 1967. Any new war the arabs tried to make would be over in 6 hours rather than 6 days.

    As far as rockets raining down on Tel Aviv or Ben Gurion airport, yes it is possible. However, moving the border towards Jordan by a few miles will not relieve those sites from being reached. Both Egypt and Jordan have honored the peace, cold as it may be, the Palestinians are capable of the same thing.

    Israel’s relations with the rest of the world are deteriorating fast. Come September, the EU, China, Russia, India and just about every meaningful country in the world except the US and Micronesia will vote for Palestinian statehood.

    Israel’s position reminds me of a story about a mother watching her son marching in a large band formation on a football field. She turned to the person sitting next to her and said – “see, my Johnny is the only one martching in step”. Israel in it’s arrogance believes the entire world is wrong and only she is right.

    Israel’s security will be 100% improved by a peace agreement and an absolute diaster if they continue to grab land and practive apartheid in the West Bank.

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