Has Obama 'thrown Israel under the bus?'
Published: Sunday, May 29, 2011
Updated: Sunday, May 29, 2011 16:05
When President Barack Obama gave a Middle East policy speech recently, he probably didn't expect such strong criticism afterward from the Republican Party.
Listening to their responses, one might think the president was secretly plotting the demise of the Jewish state. Mitt Romney even went so far as to say Obama had "thrown Israel under the bus." Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens wrote a column last week titled, "An Anti-Israel President."
That could not be further from the truth.
Keep in mind that these are the same Republicans that have accused even the most staunchly pro-Israel Democrats, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), of harboring anti-Israel sentiment.
As a Jew, it pains me to see such an important, bipartisan cause be abused as a wedge issue by Republican candidates for the scoring of political points against their future opponent, so I'm going to lay out the facts.
Republicans are accusing the president of calling on Israel for a full retreat to the borders that were established before the Six-Day War in 1967, which are widely accepted as militarily indefensible. In reality, President Obama stated that he is in favor of using Israel's 1967 borders "with mutually agreed swaps" as a basis for border negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
As the president stated in an address to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee last week, "By definition, it means that the parties themselves, Israelis and Palestinians, will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967." Obama further said that such an agreed-upon swap must change the borders to accommodate Israel's security needs, including the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem built after 1967 that today are otherwise beyond those lines.
The president received a standing ovation from the bipartisan AIPAC crowd for these remarks during his address. The president further stated that the Palestinian state must be non-militarized, that peace cannot be imposed from the outside and that it is ultimately up to Israel to determine whether its security needs have been met.
Additionally, this policy concerning the 1967 lines was one shared by both the Clinton and Bush administrations. In 2005, while delivering an address alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Rose Garden, President Bush stated that, "Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1967 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to…this is the position of the United States today."
I will concede to my critics that such a position might undermine Israel's ability to negotiate on the issues of Jerusalem and refugees during peace talks; this is a legitimate concern. However, the consequences of not taking bold action at this juncture are even greater and would be severe. The Palestinian Authority is seeking to bypass the peace process altogether and unilaterally declare a state along the 1967 borders this September at the United Nations.
If this happens, it would be a diplomatic apocalypse for Israel that would subject it to international pressure for a full withdrawal to the indefensible 1967 borders without swaps. Such an outcome would not only be bad for Israel, but it could lead to a new war.
Obama declared his strong opposition to this Palestinian tactic last week, and moves like his recent one firmly place the ball back in Palestine's court to make peace and avert this nightmarish scenario. Such moves to avoid an outcome that would harm Israeli security and delegitimize the Jewish state's right to exist are hardly anti-Israel.