Commentary Magazine


Setting the Record Straight

Mort Zuckerman pens a stunning piece on Israel, addressing many of the half-truths and distortions in Obama’s Cairo speech. In describing the present situation he reviews the history of Arab wars against Israel and Palestinian rejectionism. And he concludes:

That is why it was disturbing to read of President Obama’s rationale for the formation of Israel as a result of the Holocaust without referring to the 3,000-year-old connection that the Jews have to the Holy Land. It is but a short step from this historically inaccurate perception to conceive of the Jews as the guilty party. It is revealing that when the president speaks about daily humiliation of Palestinian Arabs, he ignores that every Israeli is searched numerous times during the day, even on the way to weddings or bar mitzvahs; that Jewish schoolchildren have to be protected by perimeter fences and armed guards at the schoolhouse gates; that guards are required in shops, cafes, restaurant, movie theatres. Arab villagers, on the other hand, do not need to have guards at their shops, cafes, or restaurants, or for children on the way to school or on hiking and camping trips. Why? Because the Israelis do not target the innocent. The president could have acknowledged the suffering of Israeli victims of Arab terrorism “for more than 60 years” when he talked of the “suffering” and “pain” of Palestinians “for more than 60 years.” Even more disturbing was the juxtaposition of his reference to the Holocaust, the deliberate murder of 6 million Jews for the fact that they were Jewish, and his assertion of Palestinian suffering in pursuit of a homeland.

During the campaign, Obama sympathized as a father with those whose children were facing daily danger from rockets which rained down on them. But as president his empathy for Israel is in short supply. Instead he has bought into the Palestinian canard that this is all about settlements — that would be settlements which were built after the 1967 war necessitated by Arab aggression and the refusal to recognize the Jewish state. (Obama leaves out the last part, of course.) The “suffering” — which he has the audacity to equate with the Holocaust — is a suffering, not of Jewish families fearing for their children, but of those who have to go through checkpoints because their comrades blow up pizza parlors. This is lunacy. But it comes from the lips now, not of the Palestinian propagandists, but of the President of the United States.

It is, as Zuckerman points out, perplexing how Israel is now the intransigent one:

It is extraordinary that a gullible world now regards Israel as rejectionist, yet it is Arab leaders who have rejected everything over the decades—rejected a partition of the land proposed by the Peel Commission in 1936; rejected the United Nations partition plan of 1947; rejected the Israeli offer after the 1967 Six Day War to return all the territories; rejected the major opportunity for peace after the Oslo agreement of 1993; rejected Ehud Barak’s proposal for a Palestinian state and President Clinton’s compromise proposals; rejected Ehud Olmert’s even more generous proposal for a Palestinian state. Sadly, President Obama seems to have drawn a moral equivalent between those who have been prepared to live in peace and those who have chosen war in 1948, 1956, 1973, and 1982, with follow-on campaigns of terrorism after every loss.

Israel has grown accustomed to Arab rejectionism. What is new is an American president going along with the a-factual narrative and suggesting it is Israel that hasn’t lived up to its bargains. That too is a distortion:

To appreciate what is at stake, we have to look at the record. Israel of its own volition withdrew settlers and settlements from Gaza, though this evacuation was not required by the road map. The Bush administration acknowledged in return that settlement construction in the West Bank would be permitted within the existing construction line—not new settlement but building to cope with the growth of families. This understanding was confirmed by senior members of the National Security Council and in letters from the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser. Among other things, the letters said, “In the framework of the agreed principles on settlement activity, we will shortly make an effort to better delineate the settlement construction line in Judea and Samaria.” Former Sharon aide Dov Weisglass wrote recently reaffirming “that the administration recognized Israel’s right under the road map to development from within the existing construction line.”

It is any wonder the Palestinians greeted Netanyahu’s speech with anti-Zionist invectives? They think they are on the “winning” side now. With nary a concession they have convinced the American president to repudiate the U.S.’s understanding on settlements and make that issue the primary focus of American Middle East policy. Why should they do anything more?

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