Retired pooh-bahs tell Obama: Nice speech, but where are the consequences?

An array of former top Republican and Democratic officials are urging  President Obama to take his proposals to the U.N. Security Council should Israel and the Palestinians reject them.

The officials released a letter recently that they had sent to Obama on Jan. 24. That letter anticipated some of the proposals Obama made in his May 19 Middle East policy speech, including a call for negotiations based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, and a non-militarized Palestinian state.

Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana and a former chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, introduces the letter in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books. He says that while the signatories welcomed Obama’s initiative, they were concerned that it lacked the warning of consequences should the parties not comply:

In his speech, President Obama omitted reference to consequences. We believe the cost-benefit calculations of neither party will be changed without that understanding.

This is how the letter puts it:

If U.S. parameters are rejected by Israel or by the Palestinian Authority (or by both) as the framework for a permanent status agreement, they should be submitted for adoption by the U.N. Security Council.

The letter places the burden on Israel to make compromises:

It is not the State of Israel within its 1967 borders that is being challenged. It is Israel’s occupation, the relentless enlargement of its settlements, its dispossession of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and the humanitarian disaster caused by its blockade of Gaza that are the target of international anger and condemnation."

It was signed by, among others, former Sen. David Boren (D-Ok.), a onetime chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a Republican; Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser; Rita Hauser, a Jewish Soviet Jewry activist who campaigned for Richard Nixon and was his delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission; and James Wolfensohn, a Jewish philanthropist and President George W. Bush’s designated envoy to the peace process under the auspices of the "Quartet" of entities that guide the Middle East peace process.

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