Thursday, May 19, 2011

Obama's Speech - revised, updated and better

Not bad. Pretty damn good. President says 1967, punts on Jerusalem and refugees. Not sure we could have expected anything more. Obama says:
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.
How will Bibi respond to 1967?

On reconsideration: Upon further reflection, Obama did not punt on Jerusalem or refugees. Rather, by couching the two as "wrenching and emotional issues" he set them up to be compromised, one for the other. Bibi has been demanding a "unified and eternal" Jerusalem; the Palestinians have clung to a "right of return." The deal is fairly obvious then. Israel cedes the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and the Palestinians forgo their right of return. This is essentially where Olmert and Abbas left off in September 2008. I'm upgrading my review from Not bad to pretty damn good.

Update: Bibi responds:
"Israel appreciates President's Obama commitment to peace," Netanyahu said, but stressed that he expects Obama to refrain from demanding that Israel withdraw to "indefensible" 1967 borders "which will leave a large population of Israelis in Judea and Samaria and outside Israel's borders."
Although the headlines are screaming that Bibi rejects a pullback to 1967 borders, that was not what Obama suggested. Instead Obama said that the borders should be "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," meaning the settlement blocs, which is what Bibi means when refers to  "large population of Israelis in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank)." The crazy right in Israel is up in arms now, calling Obama the new Arafat. And apparently, Hamas didn't likey the speech much either. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas calls an emergency meeting.

Just to be clear, when you hear someone reject Obama's call for 1967 borders, that is a strawman argument. Obama did not propose that.


  1. This speech is historic, if only by reaffirming the message of Oslo, that the 22 percent of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean is not negotiable for the Palestinians, any more than the rest of it is negotiable for the Israelis. Hence the importance given to the 1967 borders. Netanyahu may claim that these are indefensible, but against what threat? He won't say.

  2. I concur that the President did a damn fine job with his speech. Now it's our job to make sure that Congress has his back with this new and improved American Mideast policy.