Tag Archives | Israel

Anatomy of Obama-Netanyahu Political-Media Event

Well, now it’s clear.  Not only did President Obama address the AIPAC (American-Israeli Political Action Council) national conference with words almost identical to his Middle East speech last Thursday night, he received repeated applause.  Among other things, Mr. Obama reiterated the formula ‘1967 plus swaps’ from Cairo.2.  And astonishingly, after rebuking the President days before,  PM Netanyanu was quoting his authority:

“Now, the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated.  We’ll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state.  But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967.  Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.”(Emphasis added)

What is going on?  For four days, Mr. Netanyahu went out of his way pointing a finger at Mr. Obama’s Cairo.2 formulation.  Now he’s quoting  it!  I didn’t see any news reports that Mr. Netanyah apologized for misrepresenting the President’s remarks from the time he arrived until his speech to Congress.

President Obama was gracious in telling AIPAC attendees that his remarks were “misrepresented several times.”   Words diplomatically chosen:  Obama’s remarks were misrepresented, they were not misunderstood.  If they had been misunderstood the two leaders would have clarified their respective stands during a two-hour meeting the next day. Instead, the meme that President Obama had thrown Israel ‘under the bus’  became established media truth and was milked for every ounce of political blood it could draw.

Conservative media and politicians outdid themselves in whipping up false debate about what Obama never said, and the so-called East Coast ‘liberal’ press was not better.

There’s simply no excuse: not one major reporter or commenter thought or had the guts to interrupt another corrupt feeding frenzy and say:

“I think Mr. Netanyahu made a mistake here.  We are contacting Netanyahu’s press secretary now to clarify exactly why Mr. Netanyahu is interpreting the President’s remarks in a way seeming at odds with the record.  We’ll return with the Israeli response asap…….Meanwhile, in other news……”

The politics on display over the past week are hardly new. The PM stayed far away from real issues for which he had no answer, and avoided ones like settlements on which Israel is most vulnerable.  To fill the space, Mr. Netanyahu blew up the 1967 non-issue with symbolic importance and divisive meaning.  Mr. Netanyahu wanted and created a controversy, giving the signal to his conservative partisans in the US, now smelling blood, to go on attack

Dissecting Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress confirms this scenario.  The speech said nothing original, creative or in any way profound.

Most telling?  The PM failed to respond to President Obama’s challenge to AIPAC that the time for peace is running out because 1) demographic changes will mean Israel losing either its Jewish or democratic nature in the near future; 2) the changes in Arab states will put more pressure on Israel because it can no longer depend on the Mubaraks of the region suppressing a popular youth movement impatient for a Palestinian state; 3) for better or worse, the Palestinians have world opinion on their side.

What is Israel going to do?  I’d like to know. So would a lot of others. Does Netanyahu disbelieve challenges cited by President Obama? Is he in denial?  Is he racing head strong into his own self-imposed prophesy?

Sad to say it took the President of the United States to raise the level of discussion over Israel’s future by defining the strategic issues facing it.  The Israeli PM seemed content with a dog-fight.


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Netanyahu Lies ‘Officially’ Caught

This just in from the “Dish” by Andrew Sullivan now at Daily Beast:

From last November 11. Money quote:

The Prime Minister and the Secretary {Clinton} agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals. The Secretary reiterated that “the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”

What a bald-faced liar Bibi is; and how pathetic that so many fell for his hissy fit yet again.


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Obama Throws Netanyahu Life Preserver

Peter Beinart in the Daily Beast is astounded at Netanyahu’s behavior and tin ear towards the politics swirling around him:


“A sailor throws a drowning man a life preserver. How dare you, screams the man. Because of you, people are going to think I can’t swim.

That about sums up the relationship between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. In a few months, the U.N. General Assembly will vote, probably overwhelmingly, to recognize a Palestinian state along Israel’s 1967 borders. No one knows exactly what will happen after that, but from the Israeli government’s point of view, it won’t be good. According to international law, Israel will be occupying a sovereign nation. The result will likely be a bonanza of lawsuits, divestment campaigns and cancelled business deals. Israelis will feel more and more besieged. More and more of the country’s educated, tech-savvy young will realize you can get pretty good falafel in Menlo Park.”



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Obama Speech: Conflicting Reactions

“Netanyahu can sit back and relax. It’s not that Obama didn’t say clear, firm words on the Middle East; it’s just that most, if not all of them could have been said by Netanyahu himself, who would then go on doing as he pleased.”

Gideon Levy of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, views the speech as destroying Palestinian chances at the UN and clearly bolstered Netanyahu.


“In laying out U.S. policy toward the Middle East, President Barack Obama pleased critics who thought he had failed so far to fully embrace democracy abroad, but provoked starkly mixed reactions from both Jews and Arabs.”

The WSJ rounds up various comments.


When I listened to Obama’s speech delivered at the State Department earlier today in preparation for my next column, I didn’t find anything terribly interesting about the section on Israel and Palestine. Indeed, what little news there was in that section consisted of confirmations that the administration flatly opposes the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the U.N., which in itself is hardly shocking. So I was more than a little surprised that there would be such a flood of manufactured outrage over one of the least remarkable parts of the speech. At most, what Obama said represents the tiniest of incremental changes, which for some reason some administration supporters want to applaud as “bold” and “daring” and many critics want to denounce as treacherous. It isn’t bold, and it isn’t treacherous.

Daniel Larison, Eunomia

President Obama’s major policy address on the Middle East got many things right. He pointed to al-Qaeda and terrorism, which targets civilians, as a dead end. He sided rhetorically with the grassroots movements for greater democracy in the region. He condemned outright the longstanding regimes, like that of Hosni Mubarak, that had been US allies, which ruled through sordid police states. He pledged US support for democracy movements. He avoided hypocrisy by condemning US allies such as the king of Bahrain and President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen for repressing their own movements. He acknowledged the importance of ending the Palestinian people’s long sojourn in the wilderness of statelessness.

Juan Cole, Informed Comment

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Obama’s Middle East: Refocus Goals, Keep Pressure on Israel

Having returned from Israel and the West Bank last week, where Palestinians and Israelis both cautioned Obama against making another speech on the Middle East without specific proposals to move Israeli/Palestinian negotiations forward, I was resigned to be disappointed.  However, even without specifics, the speech seemed clearly designed to be the opening salvo in four days of media focus on Israeli PM Netanyahu’s trip to the US.

The strength of the speech was its sweep and timing.  The day before PM Netanyahu is to meet Obama in the White House, the speech was timed perfectly to maximize political pressure on the Israel PM as he begins his trip.  Mr. Obama signaled that the US would be expending significant political and economic resources in helping Arab democratic movements consolidate their gains.  Relegating the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to the last sixth of his presentation, he began by telling both sides that the world is tired of all the talk and no action toward peace.  Not exactly subtle.

If PM Netanyahu was listening, he’d recognize Obama’s rejection of Israeli defeatism and Mr. Netanyahu’s view that, with all the turmoil in the Middle East, now is not the time to restart peace negotiations.  Quite the contrary: the President painted a vision of even greater upheaval if peace were not achieved soon.  The Prime Minister would also have heard President Obama call for the ‘phased and full withdrawal’ of Israeli troops from an independent Palestinian state, implicitly casting aside Netanyahu’s demand that Israeli troops remain stationed next to the Jordan River on the far eastern side of the West Bank.

At the same time, Obama dismissed a September UN vote on Palestinian statehood and promised to use US veto power against attempts by the world body to isolate Israel.

In tone and substance Mr. Obama words began a shift of US policy in the Middle East towards a more balanced engagement with all players in the region.  As usual, President Obama used the sweep of history and comparisons between the Arab revolts and the US war of independence and civil war to underscore his world view.

Mr. Netanyahu will be hard-pressed to come up with a rebuttal, unless he makes a counter-intuitive move and recognizes the 1967 borders as the starting point for solving territorial disputes with Palestinians.  Most likely, the Prime Minister’s inability to bring something new to the table and stubborn reiteration of demands he knows the Palestinians can’t accept will look small.  The warning to Netanyahu: he can huff and puff for Congress but in the end, he’s on Obama’s turf.

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After Bin Laden: Middle East Peace

This is a direct link to my guest column in today’s Informed Comment.

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Don’t Be Quick to ‘Blame’ Nakba Clashes on Syria and Hamas

Reactions to the multiple protests at Israeli borders in commemoration of what the Palestinians call ‘nakba’ (catastrophe reflected the wildly competing forces in the region, the leadership paralysis in Israel and continued American passivity. Some analysts think the Syrian Assad regime tacitly encouraged Palestinian demonstrations at the Golan Heights because protesters broke through to a restricted area. Maybe. Other saw the hand of Hamas, although reports say Hamas pushed crowds back as they neared the Israeli border.

It would be a grave mistake to believe that Hamas, Hezbellah or Syria were the main instigators behind the protests.
On my trip last week to the area, I met a number of young Palestinian activists who had totally bought into the non-violence creed and tactics of the Tunisian, Egyptian and other Arab democratic movements and were using social media to mobilize for May 15th. In fact, leaders of the PLA made it clear a few weeks ago that they would encourage non-violent resistance to the occupation as an alternative to the many, ineffective years the PLO called for armed resistance. In our meetings with President Abbas and PM Fayyad, both emphasized that a commitment to non-violence is fundamental to Palestinian unity as envisioned in last month’s Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.

Israeli reaction to the border clashes was typical. PM Netanyahu blustered that the protests proved negotiations for peace are useless. MK Danny Danon upped the ante, calling for Israel to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank if Palestinians ‘unilaterally’ seek a declaration of statehood from the UN in September.  Reported by The Jerusalem Post:

“We came today to tell Netanyahu that we support him but we expect him to be strong and loyal to the principles of the Likud, despite the pressure he is facing,” Danon said at the event. “Netanyahu needs to ask Obama who he wants us to make a deal with? With the people who support Osama bin Laden? He needs to tell him, if you want us to create an al-Qaida state, we say no thank you.”

Mr. Netanyahu is close to reality about one thing however:

“The leaders of these violent demonstrations, their struggle is not over the 1967 borders but over the very existence of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be resolved,” he said. “It is important that we look with open eyes at the reality and be aware of whom we are dealing with and what we are dealing with.”

At least some of Sunday’s demonstrators called for the right to return to their homes in Palestine (Israel).  This sentiment is growing among Palestinians, just as the divestment movement is gaining steam in the international community.  The former undermines the decades-old demand of Palestinians for an independent state next to Israel.  The latter compares the occupation of the West Bank to South African apartheid.

But Netanyahu is doing nothing to develop an effective Israeli counter strategy.  In a Jerusalem speech on Holocoust Memorial day, he told the audience that Israel is once again alone in this fight, as it has been for most of its history.  How long can he hide behind the armor of defeatism?  Do Israelis feel more secure now than they did three years ago?  I doubt it.

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Traveling to Israel and Palestine – Back May 9th

I will be in Israel and Palestine until May 9th and do not plan to post during that time, although I reserve the right to change my mind!  Thanks for visiting.  Tune in May 10th!

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