Commentary Magazine


Top Democrats Rebuff Obama at AIPAC

President Obama has been widely criticized for suggesting that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations should start at the 1967 borders, but even members of his own party openly rebuked his comments during the AIPAC conference this week.

“No one should set premature parameters about borders, about building, or about anything else,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared at the conference dinner last night, to cheers and a standing ovation from an audience of over 10,000 Israel supporters.

“The place where negotiating will happen must be at the negotiating table—and nowhere else,” Reid added. “Those negotiations . . . will not happen—and their terms will not be set—through speeches, or in the streets, or in the media.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who spoke to AIPAC minutes before President Obama went onstage on Sunday, was slightly more cautious in his critique. “Israel’s borders must be defensible and must reflect reality on the ground,” he said. “Peace can only be achieved by a return to the negotiating table without preconditions.”

Obama attempted to clarify his comments on the 1967 borders during his AIPAC address yesterday, saying that he realizes those won’t be the final parameters of a future two-state solution. But he still insinuated that Israel should negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, something that both Reid and Hoyer firmly rejected.

The fact that two of the highest-ranking Democrats in Congress implicitly criticized the president’s proposals indicates two things. The first is that there is a disconnect between Obama and congressional Democrats on Israel policy. And the second is that top Democrats are now willing to disparage the president’s proposals publicly. Even if Obama wants to push anti-Israel policies (and there’s evidence to that he does), his own party won’t stand behind him on it.