Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Who Made the “Hard Choices” on Peace?

A day after President Obama’s second speech in four days in which he asserted the 1967 lines must be the basis for future peace talks, the front-page headline of the New York Times says everything about the impact of his stands. It reads “Obama Presses Israel to Make Hard Choices.”

Just that—“Obama Presses Israel to Make Hard Choices.” Not his lengthy description of U.S.-Israel security cooperation. Not his pledge to preserve the security of the Jewish state. Not his vow to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. What the world heard and what the world understood—even if many Jewish Democrats prefer to remain in denial—is that Obama believes Israel must be pressured hard if there is to be peace. His condescending manner at AIPAC made it clear that he considers Israel to be the primary obstacle to peace.

Yet for all of the fact that he and his cheerleaders insist that Obama knows the history of the Middle East as well if not better than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he omitted a few key facts from his litany. Israel has already made “hard choices.” Israel signed the Oslo Accords empowering terrorist Yasir Arafat in 1993; and handed over all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in 2005. It offered Arafat in 2000 and 2001 and his successor Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and Gaza and was turned down every time.

The Palestinians have compounded this refusal with an alliance between the moderates of Fatah and the terrorists of Hamas that even Obama understands eliminates them as a negotiating partner. And yet, he still insists that Israel must negotiate with them and make “hard choices,” which will start with their acceptance of his demand that the 1967 lines be the starting point for negotiations. Obama says that this means that the border ought to be different from those lines; yet the Palestinians insist they cannot be. And they will use, as they already have, his endorsement of those lines to buttress the very UN campaign for independent statehood that Obama says he will oppose.

Given the impossibility of such negotiations on even the terms set by Obama, one must ask why the president chose to overshadow his remarks on the Arab Spring protests in this manner. He earned little credit for it in the Arab world and his attack on Israel’s government will retard not speed up a stalled peace process. The only explanation that makes any sense is that his sense of grievance against Netanyahu made the ambush that he set up on the eve of the Israeli’s visit irresistible to him. The only hard choice that was made this weekend was the president’s decision to throw common sense to the winds and ignite another pointless and counterproductive feud with Israel.