[Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm] Hoenlein said that peace progress was likelier when there was “no daylight” between Israel and the United States. Obama agreed that it must always be clear that Israel has unalloyed U.S. support, but added that for eight years there was “no daylight and no progress.”
The following would be my summary of the progress over the past eight years — which Obama apparently ignored in his response to the group:
After the Palestinians rejected an offer of a state at Camp David in 2000, rejected the Clinton Parameters in 2001, and conducted a terror war against Israeli civilians from September 2000-2002, Israel nevertheless agreed in 2003 to the “Performance-Based Roadmap” for the creation of a Palestinian state, despite reservations about the manner in which that plan would actually be implemented.
In 2003 and thereafter, Israel ceased all settlement activity — as it understood that Phase I Roadmap obligation (no new settlements; no building outside settlement boundaries; no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements) — and believed American officials agreed with its interpretation of that obligation.
In 2004, after the Palestinian Authority failed to meet its own Phase I Roadmap obligation (sustained efforts to dismantle terrorist groups and infrastructure), Israel nevertheless proposed to dismantle every existing settlement in Gaza (not just “outposts”), remove every Israeli soldier, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority — in exchange for a written American commitment to defensible borders and retention of the major settlement blocs necessary to insure them.
In 2005, after receiving the American commitment, Israel proceeded to carry out the Gaza disengagement, despite the political and social upheaval within Israel it caused, including the break-up of the ruling party and nationwide demonstrations, and – at State Department insistence – further dismantled four settlements (not just “outposts”) in the West Bank as well, to demonstrate the disengagement would be “Gaza First,” not “Gaza Last.”
In 2006, after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group to control their government, Israelis nevertheless re-elected Kadima on a platform of “convergence” (the new name for withdrawal from the West Bank), and would have carried it out but for the attacks by Hamas from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon that caused two wars and finally convinced Israelis further withdrawals were insane.
In 2007, despite the Palestinian failure to carry out its Phase I dismantlement obligation, and its categorical rejection of Phase II (a state with provisional sovereignty before Phase III final status negotiations), Israel agreed to proceed immediately to final status negotiations once again under the “Annapolis Process.”
Throughout 2008, Israel negotiated with its “peace partner” under the accelerated process, and offered 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps) for a state, with concessions on other major issues, all of which were rejected.
During this eight-year period, the Palestinian concessions (aka reciprocal “progress”) can be enumerated more briefly: zero. The “peace partner” still demands “every inch” of the West Bank, the entire Old City of Jerusalem, and a “right of return” to Israel for every Palestinian “refugee.” It refuses to negotiate without the immediate and continued cessation of any Israeli population growth in areas Israel will keep in any conceivable peace agreement.
Obama told the group yesterday there is “a narrow window of opportunity” that demands Israel engage in “serious self-reflection” because the Bush administration’s approach “was not helpful in advancing the peace process.”
Was there no one at the meeting yesterday prepared to challenge Obama’s claim about the absence of “progress,” or articulate which side has repeatedly rejected an eight-year “window of opportunity” (and consequently needs some “serious self-reflection”), or ask how the continued refusal to endorse the April 14 letter is consistent with any confidence in the president’s assurance yesterday of his “unalloyed support,” or even back up Hoenlein’s suggestion that daylight between the U.S. and Israel is not the path to peace? No one?