Last week, Barack Obama provided the latest installation in what has become a long-running drama – how he can continue to slap Israel around in new ways while continuing to look like a “true friend” of our country.
He preceded a planned meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a major speech the day before on the situation in the Middle East. And while his advisors issued calming messages in the days preceding the speech, saying it was “unlikely” that he would make any mention of the 1967 borders in his speech, that is precisely what he did – much to the consternation of Netanyahu.
On Friday, much to the consternation of Obama, Netanyahu held forth at length in a joint session televised to the world, publicly lecturing the president on Israel’s situation and on our rights. Without directly saying so, Netanyahu showed that Obama has no real appreciation for Israel’s security, demographic, or regional situation, and that a deep reconsideration of American policy is necessary before the US can be taken seriously as a broker in negotiations.
And so, Obama did what all politicians do when faced with a crisis largely of their own making. He set out “putting out fires.”
Appearing at the AIPAC national policy conference on Sunday, Obama claimed that “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”
The problem is that an Israeli return to the 1967 borders is not always acknowledged, even privately, as the route to peace. It is demanded primarily by those who, in my opinion, truly wish ill to the Jewish people, it is the rallying cry of those who wish to divest Israel of its historical and religious raison d’etre, and it is “acknowledged” by those who desire the elimination of the Jewish state in Israel and call it peace.
What must honestly be acknowledged, both privately and publicly, is that this conflict is not about a piece of land. Land concessions by Israel have been proven to be a recipe for more conflict. The entire Oslo process was predicated on an Israeli withdrawal from large tracts of land, and that process gave us an entrenched terrorist network and infrastructure that was used to launch the worst wave of violence this country has ever experienced. The unilateral “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip was predicated on the idea that it would end “the occupation” and remove the final excuse for Palestinian violence emanating from that area. What it gave us was thousands of rockets being fired at Israeli cities as far within Israel’s consensus as Be’er Sheba, hundreds of thousands of civilians cowering for years in bomb shelters, and an entire generation of children suffering from post-trauma.
This conflict is not about the 1967 borders, which were still in use when the PLO was formed and which did not stop anti-Israel attacks, and it is not even about the 1948 borders, which the entire Arab world refused to accept and which most of it still rejects.
This conflict is about Jewish historical and national identity. The attacks upon Israel, whether by terrorists, foreign diplomats, “human rights” organizations, or the United Nations, are an attempt to damage the State as a path to damaging its people.
It is for this reason, I argue, that the Palestinians – regardless of faction – refuse to accept the State of Israel in their neighborhood. They will never recognize the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, nor will they admit any Jewish historical, religious or cultural connection to any part of the land. In fact, they turn such connections on their head, claiming them as their own.
What finally needs to be acknowledged is that Israel’s presence in the entire country – including Judea and Samaria, including all of Jerusalem – is not only a security necessity, it is the act of historical justice upon which true peace must be based.
Obama’s speech to AIPAC was not a policy speech. It was meant to calm some emotions, and nothing more. His policy speech on Thursday was a sellout of Israeli interests and a rejection of the possibility of peace. Politicians often light fires, and then have to spend long periods putting them out. But what is left is a building that is still burned to the ground. It is up to us to continue building toward a strong and durable peace that will be based on a Jewish home in the land of Israel.