Deconstructing Obama’s Speech


With all the hoopla surrounding President Barack Obama’s references to the “1967 borders” and its implications for the continued survival of the Jewish state, little attention has been paid to the far more pernicious passages interspersed throughout his latest Middle East speech. Supporters of Israel need to cut through the media haze and focus on his actual words to understand exactly where the president is coming from.

“The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine,” Obama said in the speech. “The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

Anyone familiar with Israel’s geography knows, and anyone who happens to have a map handy can see, that it is physically impossible for there to be a contiguous Palestinian state bordering Israel, Jordan and Egypt unless Israel itself becomes non-contiguous, i.e., split in two. That’s more reminiscent of the 1947 UN partition plan (which the Arabs also rejected) than the 1967 lines, and even less defensible.

Secondly, Israel’s longstanding requirement that it maintain long-term control over the area bordering the Jordan River as an early-warning buffer against its enemies to the east has been dismissed with all of the rest of Israel’s security concerns.

In his speech, Obama said, “I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

So let’s get this straight. Israel negotiates borders of the Palestinian state, and that state (contiguous, no less) is brought into existence as Israel and thousands of its residents clear out of their homes and institutions. And only then do the negotiations on the “wrenching and emotional” issues of Jerusalem and the so-called Palestinian so-called refugees begin. Say, do you think there is a chance these negotiations might fail? And if so, what is Israel left with? No land, no peace — and no problem, according to Obama.

“In particular,” the president said, “the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?”

No, Mr. President, the agreement between Fatah and Hamas doesn’t raise any questions about the possibility of negotiations. It answers those questions.

West Orange, N.J.


Editor’s Note: The writer is reacting to Jewish Week blogs and wire reports posted on The Jewish Week website. The president’s speech was given after the paper’s print deadline.