Stan emailed me this morning to ask about some scheduling issues that the WH is apparently having. I think it took them more time to translate the speech out of the original Arabic than they originally budgeted.
What Obama should have said about Israel: “I’ve come hear to speak honestly about the tensions between the west and Islam. I’ve said that for peace to take root ‘we must face these tensions squarely.’ Honesty compels me to say out loud what everybody already knows: a tiny strip of land no bigger than the American state of New Jersey cannot possibly be the source of our differences. Antipathy toward the Jewish State is nothing but an excuse, a proxy. And it must stop, for the good of Israel and for the good of the Muslim world.”
Instead he placed the Israeli-Arab conflict above nuclear weapons, democracy, and human rights as a source of Western-Islamic tension, below only 9/11. The myth of linkage at its finest. In fact he bought into the entire anti-Israel narrative wholesale. The parts where he recited anti-Israel “common knowledge” that even Palestinian President Abbas has pointed out are myths – those were the best.
Along the way he managed to impose obligations on Israel that no Israeli government can or should meet – the internationalization of Jerusalem, the Arab Initiative and its national suicide clause, etc.
At least Hamas is cautiously optimistic. Not so optimistic that they’re willing to back off their genocidal pledges. But given that Obama’s best argument was his sincere and heartfelt belief that “violence doesn’t work,” that’s not exactly a surprise.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world. America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
This will go a long way toward answering the most common anti-Israeli trope, which is that if Jews want a homeland they should get it somewhere else. It’s a much better choice than, say, “… the recognition that Israel has the same legal and moral right to exist as any other nation, and has enjoyed that right for decades.” Because appealing to the stereotypes of your audience is just good public persuasion.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and antisemitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
Some might suggest that it’s insensitive to juxtapose the Holocaust with “occupation,” an excruciating and pitiable existence that Abbas chillingly describes as “a good reality…a good life.” Which I guess is kind of like “intolerable,” in the sense that it’s the opposite.
For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
That thing about translating the speech out of the original Arabic wasn’t entirely a joke. Why not just call Israel’s founding a nakba and get it over with? It was never a “stalemate [between] two peoples” for the decades that Egypt and Jordan controlled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Then it was just Arab countries sitting on generic Arab land. But for some reason a retroactively constructed trauma from half a century ago is on the same level as Hamas’s rockets from last week. That’s the way to move peace forward.
That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
Everything else aside, this nonsense highlights why he should have mostly punted on the Israeli-Arab conflict after some perfunctory hand-waving. It’s not just that it requires him to begin with unseemly equivocations about the Holocaust and end with throwing an ally under the bus. It’s that the upshot of the whole sorry exercise is going to be nothing. He’s not going to convince a Muslim world that traces its history from Saladin to the Battle of Algiers that “resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed.”
Describing the Palestinians’ explicitly eliminationist goals as “resistance” though – nice touch.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
This passage won’t do much to dispel the suspicion that Palestinians pocket Israeli concessions like the Gaza withdrawal and then set up their old obligations – violence, past agreements, recognition – as the bare minimum they’ll give in exchange for new Israeli concessions. It’s probably worth mentioning again that Abbas insisted just last week that histrionics about the West Bank – especially histrionics about the economic conditions – just aren’t true.
The settlements red herring got dismantled in a post by Rick Richman a few days ago, which you should read if you haven’t already.
Finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
I don’t think that most Arab states will have a problem going beyond the Arab Peace Initiative. It calls for the demographic destruction of Israel, which I can’t imagine they’d approach as anything but a good starting point. And the way I know that is because Obama tried to get them to make changes to it, so that he’d have something positive to announce during his speech. That went predictably.
But it’s reassuring to know that the President personally knows a bunch of Muslims who grudgingly recognize that Israel won’t go away.
Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
Hey, remember that time when Obama called for a United Jerusalem at AIPAC and the left was like he’s a strong supporter of Israel and then he was elected and then he called for the internationalization of Israel’s capital, something Israeli leaders have been resisting since before the existence of the state? And if he didn’t mean to freak out Israel and confirm rumors about flying a UN flag over Judaism’s holiest site – opps!
That was the Israel-Arab section. A condescending lecture about a trusted ally, at times bordering on imperious instruction, on the world’s largest stage. In exchange: naive and eyeroll inducing homilies to peace, demands on the Palestinians to do what they promised to do a decade ago, and a wholesale acceptance of a Palestinian narrative of daily humiliation that not even the Palestinians think is true.
In fairness to Obama’s ostensibly pro-Israel supporters, there was no way to know this would happen. I can’t wait to see the NJDC’s press release congratulating Obama on his tough anti-Hamas stance. It’s going to be even more toolish than their usual unblinking stupidity.
* Full text of Barack Obama’s Cairo address | Middle East | Jerusalem Post [JPost]
* The myth of linkage Middle East Strategy at Harvard
* ‘Muslims see Obama changing policy’ [JPost]
* “In the West Bank We Have a Good Reality…We are Having a Good Life.” [Peretz]
* Iranian And Palestinian Lunatics Brainwashing Toddlers To Embrace Genocide, “Kill Jewish Children” [MR]
* Abbas: Olmert Offered Us The West Bank And The Right Of Return, But It Wasn’t Good Enough [MR]
* A Reader’s Guide to Israeli "Settlement Activity" [Jewish Current Issues]
* Saudi Arabia: Hey, Remember Our "Peace Plan" Where Israel Gets Overrun And Destroyed? How About It? [MR]
* White House: Arab States Will Tone Down Their “Israel Has To Commit Suicide” Demands. Arab States: No We Won’t. [MR]
* Democrats Outraged Over Jewish-Issues Poll Questions That Are… Umm… Demonstrably True [MR]
* Bibi Rejects Obama’s ‘UN Flag at Kotel’; Star of David to Remain [A7]
* Obama Insinuates Internationalization of Jerusalem [Media Line]
* 70 Percent Of American Jews Ready To Say “We Didn’t Know” When Obama Detonates US-Israel Alliance (Plus: They Most Definitely Know) [MR]
* Obama Foreign Policy Appointees: Israel To Blame For Mideast Instability, Sweeping Concessions Necessary
* Obama’s Top NSA And CIA Picks: Harsh On Israel, Sympathetic To Iran And Hezbollah
* Israeli Officials: Hey, It’s Almost As If Obama’s Trying To Detonate The US-Israeli Relationship