President Obama has just finished his speech at the State Department. Much of it, particularly the sections regarding democratization and the Arab dictators whose regimes have begun to fail, echoes in many ways the very policies of the Bush administration — which the Democrats and Obama supporters disparaged and ridiculed when George W. Bush was in power. Indeed, it seems in some ways to be a rejection of his own Cairo speech, in so much as he said that for many of the Arab states, attacking Israel was the only way that Arab rulers could allow their populations to express themselves.
Yet, the bombshell in the speech is the following:
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. 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. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
What the president has said is essentially that rather than borders and boundaries being established as an end result of negotiations, the two states that will be created should be based on the 1967 lines, a conclusion that gives the Palestinian Authority its own desired boundaries — and takes away from Israel the necessary buffer zone it gained after the 1967 war, and from which it has been able to prevent attacks on its own people.
It is akin to the policy in which the Obama administration focused on their demand that Israel give up settlements, leading Fatah and Abbas to adopt a position that, until then, they were willing to negotiate. Ultimately, it put them in a corner from which they could not back down.
Moreover, the newly developed Hamas-Fatah “unity government” agreement has already made it clear that the Palestinian leadership will not honor the requirement that the existence of a Jewish state in the region must be accepted. As the president put it, “how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Not only have the PA leadership not provided “a credible answer to that question,” they have in effect done the exact opposite — made it clear that they will never do what is required.
In effect, the president is rewarding Abbas for his bad behavior, after the PA leader’s own recent op-ed in The New York Times in which he revealed his intransigence. Statehood, as he perceives it, is not an end in itself, but is put forth as the new means for waging a continuing war against Israel. That is why Jackson Diehl’s article in The Washington Post is so important. Diehl points out: “Desperate to jump-start an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Obama administration and its European allies are piling pressure on Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, demanding that he offer a plan, concessions — something — that will provide the basis for starting negotiations with Palestinians.”
Diehl notes that Netanyahu made it clear last week when he announced a willingness to cede much of the West Bank to a new Palestinian state, a major concession. Yet, in contrast, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the “moderate” wing of the Palestinian movement, “is not only refusing to make any concessions of his own but is also turning his back on American diplomacy — and methodically setting the stage for another Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” His new agreement with Hamas will require him to do exactly the opposite of steps that could lead to peace, including firing the Palestinian PM, releasing Hamas militants from jail, and equipping the new security forces with arms from Iran. Moreover, he is committed to seeking a U.N. General Assembly vote on a Palestinian state which even President Obama called in his speech today a “symbolic” action that is meant to isolate Israel and “won’t create an independent state.”