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Friday, May 20, 2011

What's the change?

I've seen a lot of comments out there on the net claiming that it's not such a big deal that Obama wants the 'Palestinian state' to be based on the '1967 borders' (really the 1949 armistice lines), because Olmert and Barak both offered that in the past.

Well, it is a big deal. Here's why.

There is certainly something very new in the US endorsement of the 'Palestinian' position that the 'Palestinians' are presumptively entitled to sovereignty over all Mandatory areas captured by the Arab League in its invasion of Israel in 1948 and held by the Arab states until 1967, and therefore Israel has to compensate them one for one for anything it keepsu agreement reached between Israel and the PLO that endorses that position, and there is no previous US endorsement of that position. The Israeli position, which is quite reasonable under the agreed-upon negotiating framework of Resolution 242, is that borders should be “secure and recognized” rather than based upon where the Arabs reached in 1949. The US position used to be that borders had to be agreed upon. No more.

There is a major difference between Israel offering to establish a border on the basis of the 1949 armistice lines and the US claiming that negotiations must be based on that Israeli concession. In fact, one of the major requirements for both Barak and Olmert was that nothing was agreed upon until everything was agreed, i.e., that Israeli concessions regarding the borders could not be pocketed but would only be valid when coupled with various 'Palestinian' concessions that Barak and Olmert (foolishly) expected to receive. If Obama is now endorsing the 1949 armistice lines, he is essentially giving the Palestinians the offered Israeli concessions in exchange for nothing.

But the point for the general audience isn't what Obama endorsed, it's the language he used. No president has ever said the words "antagonism toward Israel" in a policy speech, nor have US presidents spoken of the "'Palestinians' suffering under occupation" by Israel.

What this will sound like to most people is that Obama took a position on one of the key points to be negotiated, meaning that the US has taken a giant step away from acting as a comparatively neutral mediator. There is a big difference between accepting an Israeli negotiating position, and announcing that the US will tolerate only that specific negotiating position.

Bush referred to 'Palestinian suffering' and so did Clinton. But neither of them spoke of the Palestinians suffering "the humiliation of occupation by Israel." Neither Bush nor Clinton targeted Israel as the source of 'Palestinian' suffering or humiliation. Obama explicitly did.

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