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Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's 'Israel vision'

JPost editor David Horovitz interviewed Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama during the latter's trip here on Wednesday, and I have to tell you that parts of this interview sound downright scary. If anything, Obama would be more 'evenhanded' than Bill Clinton and a lot less pro-Israel than George W. Bush. Here's Horovitz's summary:
There is a limit to what can be gauged of a politician's views as expressed in a relatively short interview at the height of an election campaign. But Obama, who chose to give the Post one of the only two formal sit-down interviews he conducted during his visit, was clearly conveying a carefully formulated message - and it was striking in several areas.

He sought to sound resolute on thwarting Iran's nuclear drive, while insisting on the need to "exhaust every avenue" before the military option. He was optimistic on the prospects of potential Syrian moderation. He was succinct and blunt on Jerusalem - and distinctly different from the "poor phrasing" of his "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided" comments during his address to AIPAC's policy conference last month. And most notably, he was explicit and unsympathetic on the matter of West Bank settlement.

Speaking to the Post six months and a political lifetime ago in January, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that the unique advantage of trying to reach an accord with the Palestinians during the Bush administration stemmed from the fact that while even Israel's best friends, when they envision the permanent dimensions of our country, think of Israel "in terms of the '67 borders," Bush "has already said '67-plus.' He's the only president who has ever said that... And that's an amazing achievement for Israel."

In the Knesset on Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a self-declared lifelong friend of Israel, underlined the point by setting out the "fundamentals" of a final-status accord involving "a two-state solution based on 1967 borders."

And on Wednesday evening, Obama answered my question about whether Israel has a right to try and maintain a presence in the West Bank, for security, religious, historic or other reasons, with a vigor and detail that also seemed to confirm Olmert's assessment of where conventional friendly wisdom stands and that expanded significantly on his brief settlement remarks in the AIPAC speech.
Here's part of what Obama said:
Can you assure the people of Israel, and beyond, that as president you will prevent Iran attaining nuclear weapons?

What I can do is assure that I will do everything in my power as president to prevent Iran attaining nuclear weapons. And I think that begins with engaging in tough, direct talks with Iran, sending a clear message to Iran that they shouldn't wait for the next administration but should start engaging in the P5 process [involving the five permanent members of the UN Security Council] that's taking place right now, and elevating this to the top of our national security priorities, so that we are mobilizing the entire international community, including Russia and China, on this issue.

One of the failures, I think, of our approach in the past has been to use a lot of strong rhetoric but not follow through with the kinds of both carrots and sticks that might change the calculus of the Iranian regime. But I have also said that I would not take any options off the table, including military.
I wish he were kidding, but apparently he's not. Iran has been offered every carrot in the book and has said quite insistently and consistently that it has no intention of stopping its enrichment program. And Russia and China have given no indication of any willingness to cooperate. The American position has been blanketly opposed to settlement construction.
Do you think Israel has a right to try and maintain a presence in the West Bank - for security, religious, historic or other reasons?

I think that Israel should abide by previous agreements and commitments that have been made, and aggressive settlement construction would seem to violate the spirit at least, if not the letter, of agreements that have been made previously.

Israel's security concerns, I think, have to be taken into account, via negotiation. I think the parties in previous discussions have stated that settlement construction doesn't necessarily contribute to that enhanced security. I think there are those who would argue that the more settlements there are, the more Israel has to invest in protecting those settlements and the more tensions arise that may undermine Israel's long-term security.

Ultimately, though, these are part of the discussions that have to take place between the parties. But I think that, based on what's previously been said, for Israel to make sure that it is aligned with those previous statements is going to be helpful to the process.

The current Israeli prime minister told me in an interview a few months ago that the great advantage of the Bush administration on that issue was that they looked at Israel on the basis of "67-plus" - that their starting point was that maybe Israel can expect or deserve support for a slightly larger sovereign presence than the pre-1967 Israel. Do you think of Israel in its final-status incarnation on the basis of "67-plus"?

Look, I think that both sides on this equation are going to have to make some calculations. Israel may seek "67-plus" and justify it in terms of the buffer that they need for security purposes. They've got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party.

The Palestinians are going to have to make a calculation: Are we going to fight for every inch of that '67 border or, given the fact that 40 years have now passed, and new realities have taken place on the ground, do we take a deal that may not perfectly align with the '67 boundaries?

My sense is that both sides recognize that there's going to have to be some give. The question from my perspective is can the parties move beyond a rigid, formulaic or ideological approach and take a practical approach that looks at the larger picture and says, "What's going to be the best way for us to achieve security and peace?"
Sorry Hussein but the 'Palestinians' have made their calculation and continue to insist on every inch of Judea and Samaria as if they were the victor in the previous wars and not the (semi) vanquished. So what he's really saying here is that no, he won't back "'67 plus" and that he expects Israel to go back to the Auschwitz borders of 1967. In fact, in her Friday column, Caroline Glick notes the following:
As for the Palestinian conflict with Israel, Obama says that he views the peace plan laid out by former president Bill Clinton as a reasonable "starting point" for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The Clinton plan calls for an Israeli withdrawal from some 95 percent of Judea and Samaria, and the division of Jerusalem, with Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

If that is the "starting point" for negotiations, it is worth considering what the "endpoint" would be.

Then, too, as Israel's withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon demonstrated, all areas transferred to the control of terror forces become active bases for terror and jihad. Given the jihadist state of Palestinian society, how can Obama think that the reenactment of that same failed policy in Jerusalem and the outskirts of Tel Aviv will bring different results than it has in Gaza and Lebanon?
Good questions. Let's hope he loses and we don't have to answer them.


More here and here.


At 6:27 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - you're focusing on the wrong person. Its not Obama Israelis have to worry about. It the moral cowards and idiots running the country who want to push Israel back to the 1949 lines in the face of all the evidence so far that Israeli withdrawals have not and will never bring about peace.


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