Former US congressman Robert Wexler is a man worth listening to. Wexler served
as then-senator Barack Obama’s chief booster in the American Jewish community
during the 2008 presidential campaign. He appeared everywhere and said anything
to convince the American Jewish community that the same man who sat in the
church pews listening to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitic vitriol for two
decades, and listed among his closest friends and associates a host of
Israel-haters as well as former terrorists, was the greatest friend Israel could
Once Obama was elected, Wexler continued to serve as his
Jewish shill. Wexler traveled to Israel multiple times in the early months of
Obama’s presidency, to pressure Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to submit to
Obama’s demand and embrace the cause of Palestinian statehood. After Netanyahu
finally announced his support for Palestinian statehood at his speech at
Bar-Ilan University in September 2009, Wexler returned with a new demand – that
Netanyahu enact a moratorium on Jewish property rights in Judea and
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post
at the time, Wexler
promised that Israel would be richly rewarded if it took the unprecedented step
of denying Jews the right to their property in Judea and Samaria simply because
they were Jewish. Even if the moratorium were temporary, Obama would view the
discriminatory measure as proof of Israel’s good intentions.
would expect the Palestinians and the wider Arab world to respond to Israel’s
move by taking steps to normalize their relations with Israel.
instance, Wexler claimed that Obama had demanded that the Arabs respond to an
Israeli moratorium on Jewish property rights by among other things opening trade
offices and direct economic ties; conducting cultural and economic exchanges;
and permitting Israeli airplanes to overfly their territory.
And in the
event that the Arabs refused to rise to the occasion, Wexler proclaimed, “You
can rightly say that all bets are off.”
Wexler continued, “I want to call
their bluff. I want to see, if Israel makes substantial movement toward a
credible peace process, whether they are willing to do it. And if they are not,
better that we should find out five or six months into the process, before
Israel is actually asked to compromise any significant position.”
event, Netanyahu bowed to Obama’s demand and enacted a temporary ban on the
exercise of Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria. And in the aftermath of
his stunning move, the Arab world did nothing.
Amazingly, far from
calling their bluff, Obama doubled down on his pressure on Israel.
other things, since squeezing the first temporary ban on Jewish property rights
out of Netanyahu, Obama has demanded that the moratorium be made permanent and
be extended to Jerusalem.
As for his vision of the “peace process,” Obama
has demanded that Israel accept the 1949 armistice lines as the basis for
He has used the US veto at the UN Security Council as a
means of pressuring Israel to make further unreciprocated concessions to the
And the pro-Israel US president has demanded no similar
concessions from the Palestinians.
THIS WEEK, Wexler, now the head of the
far-left S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, was back in town.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, he said that Israel should consider
extending the ban on Jewish property rights to within the 1949 armistice lines.
Wexler based his claim on then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace offer to
Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Olmert’s offer, which Abbas rejected,
involved a “land swap,” in which in the framework of a comprehensive peace deal,
Israel would give the Palestinians land from within its 1949 boundaries in
exchange for land in Judea and Samaria that Israel would permanently retain.
According to media reports, Olmert offered Abbas 4.5 percent of Israeli
territory in exchange for a similar amount of land in Judea and
While Wexler appeared at the Herzliya Conference as the
president of a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, his continued intimate
relationship with Obama is well known. Last fall, Commentary’s Omri Ceren
documented that Zvika Krieger, Wexler’s vice president at the Daniel Abraham
Center, authored documents for Obama’s reelection campaign. Among other things,
those documents cited articles authored by Krieger and Wexler in which they
championed Obama’s record on Israel from their nonpartisan perch at the Daniel
Given Wexler’s close ties to Obama, it is reasonable to
assume that his suggestion that Israel cease exerting its national sovereignty
over its sovereign territory in the interests of the peace process is not simply
his personal view.
There is much to criticize about Wexler’s
But more important than its arrogant, insulting absurdity,
and more disconcerting than Wexler’s own hypocrisy, is what his suggestion tells
us about the dangers inherent in Netanyahu’s current negotiations with the
To understand the connection we need to recall the nature
of Olmert’s offer to Abbas.
Olmert’s negotiations with Abbas were based
upon the proposition – repeated ad nauseam to the Israeli public – that “nothing
is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
The idea was clear. True, on
the one hand, the prime minister was conducting negotiations far from the
spotlight, and refusing to tell the public what was on offer. But on the other
hand, we could rest assured that that nothing he offered would have any
significance whatsoever unless the Palestinians agreed to a final-peace deal
with Israel. If they rejected peace, then everything Olmert said would become
null and void, and be tossed down the memory hole.
In accordance with
this basic proposition, when Abbas rejected Olmert’s offer, and made no
counteroffer, it was naturally assumed that Olmert’s proposal was rendered null
Yet four years later, here is Wexler, Obama’s surrogate,
advocating a policy of unilateral abrogation of Israeli sovereignty over 4.5% of
its national territory in order to enable the eventual implementation of an
offer that was predicated on the notion that “nothing is agreed to until
everything is agreed to.”
AND THIS brings us to the current negotiations
between Israel and the Palestinians. For the past month, under the aegis of the
Middle East Quartet, Netanyahu’s representative attorney Yitzhak Molcho has been
conducting negotiations with Abbas’s representatives in Amman, Jordan. Last
week, Molcho reportedly outlined the government’s general positions on lands it
is willing to cede to the Palestinians.
Without presenting any maps,
Molcho reportedly said that a permanent agreement would involve most of the
Israelis living in Judea and Samaria remaining in Israeli territory. The media
interpreted this to mean that like Olmert, Netanyahu expects for Israel to
retain perpetual control over large blocks of Israeli communities that take up
less than 10% of the overall landmass in Judea and Samaria.
For his part,
Netanyahu this week reiterated his position that Israel must maintain a
long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley. This has been interpreted to
mean that Netanyahu is willing to cede sovereign rights to the area to the
Taken together, what Molcho’s statement and Netanyahu’s
statement indicate is that at a minimum, in exchange for peace, the Netanyahu
government is willing to expel some portion of the 350,000 Jews living in Judea
and Samaria from their homes and to transfer sovereignty over a significant
portion of the territory to a Palestinian state.
From the vagueness of
what has been reported, it is apparent that Netanyahu has been far less specific
about the scope of the territorial concessions he is willing to undertake than
his predecessor was. But then again, Olmert made his offer after conducting
negotiations with Abbas for over a year. Netanyahu only entered these talks a
And while no one in or out of government believes that these
negotiations have any chance of leading to a peace deal, the fact is that
Netanyahu is feverishly working to ensure that the talks continue. He spent a
good part of his day on Wednesday speaking on the phone to US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, and meeting with Quartet envoy Tony Blair and UN Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moon, begging the foreign leaders to convince the Palestinians
not to abandon the negotiations.
As he put it in his joint press
conference with Ban, “You cannot complete the peace process unless you begin it.
If you begin it, you have to be consistent and stick to it.”
part, Abbas is doing everything in his power to make clear that he does not wish
to negotiate, and that even if negotiations continue, he will never cut a deal
with Israel. To underscore his bad faith, next week Abbas will travel to Egypt
to meet with Hamas terror chief Khaled Mashaal. The two men are set to discuss
the means of implementing the unity government deal they signed last
Netanyahu is obviously under great pressure to continue with these
talks. A day doesn’t go by without some US official or European leader talking
about the need for talks, or a leftist politician or political activist at home
blaming Netanyahu for the absence of peace. But none of this pressure can
justify the damage that is done to Israel’s position by continuing to engage in
As Netanyahu’s own experience with Obama (and Wexler)
shows, concessions never bring a respite from the US leader’s pressure. They
only form the baseline for demands for further concessions.
narrow confines of Obama’s personal hostility towards Israel, Netanyahu’s
current engagement in negotiations with the Palestinians is devastating to
Israel’s position in two ways.
First, it makes it impossible for Israel
to extricate itself from the lie of PLO moderation and to start telling the
truth about its Palestinian “partner.”
Quite simply, as Abbas’s continued
courtship of Hamas and his open embrace and glorification of mass murderers such
as the murderers of the Fogel family make clear, the PLO has returned to its
roots as a terrorist organization. It is no longer credible to claim that the
PLO has abandoned terror in favor of peace.
By engaging in peace talks
with the PLO, Netanyahu renders it impossible to make this critical claim.
Consequently, he damns Israel to a situation in which we continue to empower and
politically legitimize a terrorist organization committed to our
The second way continued negotiations devastates Israel’s
position is by eroding our ability to claim our rights to Judea and Samaria and
so extricate ourselves from this fake peace process with terrorists. As Wexler
made clear, from the international community’s perspective, everything that
Israel offers at the negotiating table is catalogued. Regardless of Palestinian
bad faith, irrespective of actual prospects for peace, every theoretical Israeli
concession becomes the new baseline for further negotiations.
“friends” like Wexler and Obama play Israel for a fool again and
In truth, we should thank Wexler for coming here this week and
reminding us of his bad faith, and the bad faith of the president he serves. But
it is up to Netanyahu to draw the appropriate