You know Democrats are getting panicky about President Obama’s alienating the pro-Israel community when they drag out Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to defend the president’s statements. Emanuel wrote a column in the Washington Post today on “Obama’s Commitment to Israel,” in which he addressed the president’s controversial remarks on the 1967 borders:
One sentence that [Obama] uttered received the most attention: “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.”
There, the president stated a concept that has been the basis of every serious attempt at resolution since the negotiations President Bill Clinton held at Camp David in 2000. He reminded us that every president and many Israeli elected leaders have recognized that the borders are one starting point for negotiations, not the end point.
That statement does not mean a return to 1967 borders. No workable solution envisions that. Land swaps offer the flexibility necessary to ensure secure and defensible borders and address the issue of settlements.
Emanuel, unsurprisingly, misses the major point here. The problem with Obama’s speech was that he called for the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations, without reaffirming that Israel would absorb the Israeli-majority settlement blocs across the green line. He also didn’t reject the Palestinian right of return. In other words, he implied that the U.S. would take the Palestinian negotiating position on the issue, putting our ally Israel at a significant disadvantage.
But it’s expected that Emanuel would misrepresent the heart of the problem. His job is to put out the political fires that his former boss started, not to speak honestly to Israel supporters. Emanuel was the administration official who was supposed to calm the concerns of the pro-Israel community after Obama’s election. It will be interesting to see if he still has the same power of persuasion now that he’s left the White House.