Friday, May 20, 2011

Flashback To AIPAC 2008:Has Obama Reversed Himself On Israel?

Remember when Obama backtracked on Jerusalem in 2008:
Barack Obama had to backtrack on foreign policy yet again today, this time on Jerusalem. He tried to outdo John McCain at AIPAC yesterday by insisting that Jerusalem remain the undivided capital of Israel. The Palestinians erupted in anger at that statement, and by the end of the day they had Obama backpedaling.
Now it seems that Obama may be doing it again. Jennifer Rubin writes that Obama has backtracked on his Middle East speech yesterday.

President Obama blew it yesterday. The Israelis are infuriated, numerous sharp-eyed lawmakers spotted the forced concessions Obama was demanding of Israel and, if former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block is any indication, the most prominent pro-Israel Jewish group is very, very worried. So what does Obama do? He reverses course — fast!

On the BBC last night, Obama immediately nixed his definitive language on the 1967 borders and reverted to language that sounded more in tune with that of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush:
To the BBC, the president said, The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides. That's on the one hand and on the other hand, and this was an equally important part of the speech, Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis.

The president said that the Israelis will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory particularly given what they have seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.
That is as sure a sign as any that the speech was an overstep, and a misstep, that the Israelis are infuriated and that Obama is now in a pinch.
Obama did not admit he backtracked on Jerusalem back in 2008 and no one expects him to admit that he is backpedaling now--but the language about "recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed" is much more consonant with the Bush language--from the very 2004 document that Obama has been saying the US is not bound by.

Here is the language Bush in his letter to Sharon:
As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
Obama's comment to the BBC echoes not only the need to take into account "realities on the ground"--and he emphasized the need for Israel to feel secure. Obama obfuscates a bit by referring to Hezbollah and not to Hamas, by referring to what Israel has "seen happen in Gaza," which is vague and supposedly refers to the rockets landing in Israel. Actually, Obama may have meant that language and is referring to the Hamas-Fatah unity government. In either case, Obama studiously avoids mentioning Hamas.

Bottom line: Jennifer Rubin is right.
Now we have to see if Obama builds on that when he speaks at AIPAC
(and if he says anything there that he'll later have to retract)

Hat tip: Maggie's Farm

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