Seeking to put some distance between himself and the diplomatic drama back in Washington, US President Barack Obama departed for Great Britain this week, where he made a highly revealing mistake.
After visiting Westminster Abbey and laying a wreath on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, Obama signed the guest book.
“It is a great privilege to commemorate our common heritage and common sacrifice,” he wrote, before signing his name and adding the date: “24 May 2008.”
That was three years ago! Even the liberals over at The New Yorker
not help themselves, taunting the commander-in-chief with the headline:
“President Obama has no idea what year it is.” Now all of us, of
course, have our “senior moments” – flashes of forgetfulness about where
the car keys we were holding five minutes ago have gone. And who hasn’t
had the awkward experience of periodically having to ponder that most
Socratic of all musings: Is today Tuesday or Wednesday?
Nonetheless, Obama’s slip-up is more than a momentary lapse. It is an
illuminating incident that reveals a lot about the American president.
I’m no psychologist, but I’d say Obama is clearly looking back longingly
to the days when he was a candidate whose only responsibility was to
smile for the cameras and deliver speeches. Indeed, it almost seems like
he was trying to reorder reality.
Such an attitude may be very human, but it isn’t quite presidential. A
leader is someone who must grapple with today while planning for
tomorrow. Life is not a Michael J. Fox movie, and there are no time
machines that allow us to go back to the future.
Yet this fantasy is precisely what seems to guide the president’s policy
on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In his address to AIPAC, Obama asserted
that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967
lines, with mutually agreed swaps” – reiterating remarks he made at the
State Department last week.
In other words, he would simply like to travel back to before the 1967
Six Day War began, ignoring the lessons of that conflict and its
Such a suggestion is not only naïve, but also dangerous.
If Israelis learned anything from that encounter, it is that the
pre-1967 frontiers were an invitation to potential extermination. They
were indefensible and untenable and only served to whet our foes’
appetite for war.
Remember, in the run-up to the fighting, the Arab leaders made it
chillingly clear that their aim was to destroy the Jewish state.
On May 20, 1967, Hafez Assad (then serving as Syria’s defense minister)
said: “Our forces are now entirely ready to initiate the act of
liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab
homeland. I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter
into a battle of annihilation.”
On May 26, Egyptian president Gamal Nasser declared in a speech to his nation: “Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel.”
And at a press conference the following day, PLO founder Ahmad Shukeiry
said: “D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this,
and will not flinch from the war of liberation.”
On May 30, Cairo Radio
more explicit: “Israel has two choices, both of which are drenched with
Israeli blood: Either it will be strangled by the Arab military and
economic siege, or it will be killed by the bullets of the Arab armies
surrounding it from the south, from the north and from the east.”
A week later, the war began. And a week after that, it had ended,
leaving Israel in control of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights.
In 1967, the State of Israel was faced with the threat of extinction. It
fought off its enemies and liberated the cradle of ancient Jewish
civilization, reuniting Jerusalem and depriving our enemies of the
platform from which they had sought to destroy us.
By invoking the pre-’67 lines, Obama has essentially said that all this
didn’t matter, and that Israel’s acquisition of territory in an act of
pure self-defense was somehow illegitimate.
He would like to simply push the “rewind” button, returning the Jewish state to an unsustainable vulnerability.
But this attempt at time travel is little more than political science
fiction. It is pure illusion and, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
made so eloquently clear in his address to Congress on Tuesday, it
cannot and will not happen.
As much as Obama might wish to brush aside the past, that would be an insult to history and a menace to our destiny.
So let’s get one thing straight: Israel did not “occupy” Judea and
Samaria – we won that territory, fair and square. The war of 1967 was
one that Israel neither asked for nor initiated. But with God’s help we
won it. And we will never go back to what came before.
It’s 2011, Mr. President. Get used to it.The writer serves as chairman of
Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that
assists ‘lost Jews’ seeking to return to the Jewish people.