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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Obama's self-induced amnesia on Arafat

Remember Obama's meeting with journalists from the Middle East in Cairo right after his speech on Thursday? Well, it's already yielded some interesting stories. Here's another one.
Q Are the Arabs who are now the allies of the United States of America, are they ready to be real partners? Because in the past, some of them were not partners, real partners, especially --

THE PRESIDENT: Give me an example.

Q For example, in the time of Yasser Arafat and the meetings between President Clinton, I think, and Mr. Arafat and maybe Mr. Barak. Most of the Americans I met said, well, it was Arafat who backed off, although some people say, no, this is not the story -- but this is what I heard. And when I asked some of my friends in the States, they said, well, the Arabs, which means at that time Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who were the allies of Yasser Arafat and allies of the United States, did not force him or did not try to convince him just to accept what was the parameter of solution, which was at that time offered and I don't think described something better.

THE PRESIDENT: Let me just say this. One of the things I've learned about being President is I always read about things that I don't remember happening, even though I was in the room -- probably because they didn't happen. So I don't try to guess or speculate on what happened a decade ago with respect to why a peace deal was not completed. What's more important from my perspective is how do we now move forward.
In other words, Obama is totally ignoring the fact that Arafat walked away from the incredible deals that Ehud Barak offered him at Camp David and at Taba, and made war on Israel instead. Leo Rennert comments.
To refuse to deal with Arafat's legacy and contnuing impact on Palestinian society is to blind oneself to one of the greatest obstacles to the peace process. Does Obama expect Abbas to get a sweeter deal than Clinton and Barak offered to Arafat? No way. So if Obama wants to resurrect what Israel offered nine years ago, shouldn't it behoove him to speak truth to the Palestinians about how Arafat betrayed their political aspirations? Shouldn't that, in fact, be the starting point of any "frank" and "honest" discussion with Palestinians about what compromises they will have to make to end up with something close to the peace deal that Arafat rejected out of hand?

How is it that Obama can speak candidly and very specifically about what he views as Israeli obstacles to peace like settlements, but can't bring himself to tackle the ghost of Arafat, which stands atwarth his peacemaking agenda?

And how does Obama square his evocation of real history at Buchenwald with his refusal to confront the history of Arafat's denial of peace to Israelis and Palestinians? Remembering the Holocaust is critically important, but so is remembering Arafat when you're engaging the Muslim world in an effort to revive peace hopes in their region.

In his roundtable interview in Egypt, as in his speech at Cairo University, Obama unfortunately glossed over the Palestinians' self-inflicted wounds and portrayed them instead as victims of Israeli "occupation." This merely reinforces their Naqba ("catastrophe") neurosis that all their woes stem from the founding of Israel in 1948 and the continuing existence.of the Jewish state, while Arafat gets a pass from Obama.

Not exactly a smart way to secure a two-state solution.
To illustrate what Rennert is saying, please consider that Abu Mazen has said on many occasions that he will go no further than Arafat went and that he will not agree to anything to which Arafat did not agree. In other words, Abu Mazen will not make a deal for anything less than Arafat was offered. And in fact, we know that he has already turned down more.

Unfortunately, Obama's idea of 'being honest with friends' is apparently limited to Israel. As George Santanaya famously quipped "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Hopefully Israel has learned from the history of past offers to the 'Palestinians.' President Obama obviously has not.


At 7:44 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

If we're to believe reports out of Israel this weekend, a few nice Jews in the Israeli government appearing to be developing a case of self-induced amnesia about the peace process, too. All we can do is hope they don't lead the Israeli government back to the dead-end road of peace for nothing every Israeli government has faithfully pursued over the past 16 years.


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