When Obama spoke to AIPAC on May 22, 2011, trying to control the damage done by his announcement that Israel return to the 1967 armistice lines, those who weren’t buying his “explanation” sat conspicuously in their chairs and on their hands. In contrast, most others jumped up to enthusiastically applaud and re-embrace the president. The Jewish community was visibly fracturing.
One attendee who was not accepting Obama’s explanation volunteered what many of us thought: if Obama nuked Tel Aviv, he’d lose 8% of the Jewish vote.
So it was not surprising that some “court Jew” would be found to take Benjamin Netanyahu to task for the public shellacking of the president who called upon Israel to return to the Auschwitz lines of 1967. And at what better place than Time magazine? Its anti-Semitism knows few limits. In September of 2010, its cover story was titled “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The answer? Because Israelis are more concerned about money. Of course!
Joe Klein, Time columnist and well-known liberal, asserts that Netanyahu purposely misrepresented Obama’s statement. The president did not say Israel’s borders needed to be renegotiated. According to Klein, what Obama said was that a two-state solution “should be based on pre-1967 borders, with mutually agreed upon land swaps that would enable Israel to incorporate the vast majority of — dare I say — its illegal settlements into its territory [...].”
Klein’s mixture of deception and disingenuousness goes on. He proclaims that the swapping of land around these borders was a fixture in past negotiations between the Arabs and Israelis.
As a seasoned journalist, Klein must know that diplomacy is about nuance. There are profound differences concerning where one begins negotiations, where one finishes, and what corollary arrangements are appended to the end products. There is a difference between outcomes that parties achieve through the process of compromise, conciliation, and hard-fought exchanges, and ones the president of the United States imposes as a starting point. In this case, that starting point is nothing less than the Palestinian position.
The president announced to the Muslim world what the Israelis must give up. He said absolutely nothing about what the Palestinians should do about the important issues of the “Palestinian demand to return millions of refugees to Israel proper and overrun it,” or the “status of Jerusalem” — which, in his 2008 AIPAC speech, then-candidate Obama called “indivisible.”
By failing to restate the “indivisibility” of Jerusalem, Obama made the omission conspicuous, underscoring the gravity of his commitment to the idea of Israel withdrawing to the 1967 armistice lines.
Klein fabricated his assertion that the president proposed that the land swaps would actually permit Israel to incorporate most of its settlements. Obama merely said that land swaps would take into consideration Israel’s settlements, a statement as vague as it is meaningless.
As for Klein’s statement that the settlements are illegal, that is mere posturing. The legality or illegality of the settlements is a complex matter of international law. Just because you write for Time and proclaim something is illegal doesn’t make it so.
It is no secret that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has long denied any relationship between the Jews and the land of Israel, repudiating both Jewish history and any foundation for a Jewish claim to the land. The Jews, according to Abbas, whose doctoral dissertation is a Holocaust-denying tome, have no history in Israel. In contrast, the Palestinians, he asserts, are the direct descendants of the Canaanites. Abbas, as Barry Rubin so carefully documents, never had any interest in land swaps.
The immediate Palestinian reaction to Obama’s speech was predictable and represented what Netanyahu and Obama’s critics expected. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that Israel must now recognize the 1967 armistice lines.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, speaking on behalf of Abbas, said flat out that the Palestinian Authority won’t agree to any Israeli presence in Palestine beyond the 1967 lines. So much for Klein’s assertion that Obama’s proposal would permit Israel to keep large blocs of its settlements!
Days later, Abbas himself praised Obama for the “parameters” he had outlined.
Clearly, Joe Klein’s deception cannot hide that Obama’s narcissism and arrogance have jeopardized meaningful negotiations. The Palestinians intend to start from Obama’s position, ignoring any reference to the land swaps. This means that the Wailing Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, will be on the Palestinian side of the line, and Jerusalem will be a divided city. What then is there to negotiate? Whether Palestinians who are the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original refugees can live in Israel?
Maybe the Palestinians, having started with Obama’s “parameters,” will negotiate the boundaries of Tel Aviv and Haifa, or whether only Jews who lived in the British Mandate before 1948 will be permitted to stay in Palestine (as dhimmi). This is a proposal I have heard, for decades, made in all seriousness at university debates on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. This is considered the moderate position. The more extreme is whether the Jews should be pushed into the sea or forcibly repatriated to Europe. Whatever position the Palestinians choose, the Jews will first have to apologize to the Palestinians — even if it is during a prelude to another Holocaust.
Now that Abbas and Erekat have predictably removed land swaps from Obama’s position, should we anticipate another essay by Joe Klein on how President Obama detests how the Palestinians are, as he said of Netanyahu, “twisting and oversimplifying his words”?