Friday, May 20, 2011

Embarrassing Tutorial

Mr. Obama's speech Thursday on the Middle East situation was fairly prosaic and unexceptionable until he drew close to the end. When he started talking about the Israeli/Palestinian difficulties he lobbed this stink bomb into the room and hence around the world:
We believe 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 full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
In two sentences the President managed to throw the "peace process", such as it is, into chaos. There is no way Israel is going to return to the pre-1967 borders which made the tiny country only nine miles wide at its narrowest point. To do what the President proposes would be to commit suicide.

Secondly, what does Mr. Obama mean by saying that the Palestinians should have a "contiguous" state? Right now there are two Palestinian entities, one on the West Bank and one in Gaza (See map). There is no way to make a contiguous Palestinian state unless a Palestinian corridor is created to connect the two territories, but such a corridor would bisect Israel which means that Israel's borders would then not be contiguous. Does Mr. Obama really think that cutting Israel in half is a viable proposal? If not, what alternatives did he have in mind?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited with Mr. Obama today, and on national television politely instructed him on the realities in the region. Mr. Obama appeared a bit embarrassed at having to sit quietly through Mr. Netanyahu's gentle rebuke, but the lesson, sadly, was much needed (Netanyahu begins speaking at about the 7:30 mark):
Except for the unfortunate paragraph above Mr. Obama tried to sound like a neutral broker between the interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it's very hard to be neutral when the aspirations of the two parties are so different.

It is the goal of the Israelis to live securely in their homes and at peace with their neighbors. It is the goal of the Palestinians, or at least that faction of them which wields all the power, to destroy Israel and the Israeli Jews. They've said so countless times. How can one be neutral between those two objectives?

As we consider the President's proposals we need to ask whose goals would his proposals further? Would returning to the 1967 borders improve the security of the Israeli people or would it make their destruction an easier task for the Palestinians? The answer is obvious and for that reason the President's attempt to sound impartial rings hollow. He sounds either very much disposed toward the Palestinians or very naive, or both.

It's no wonder, then, that Mr. Netanyahu felt the need to give him the embarrassing tutorial.