Friday, May 20, 2011

Robert Wexler Puts President Obama's '1967 Lines' Comment Concerning Israel Into Proper Perspective

SCHULTZ: President Obama gave a wide-ranging complex speech on Middle East policy today. But most Republicans only paid attention to this 13 second clip:

OBAMA: We believe 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.

SCHULTZ: That part of the speech whipped right-wingers into a frenzy. Mitt Romney said "President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus." Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, called the president's proposal "a mistake and a very dangerous demand." And Michele Bachmann chimed in on Twitter, saying: "Once again, President Obama has betrayed our friend and ally Israel." And she later tweeted: "I'm calling on President Obama to reverse course on his latest insult of Israel." Well, if Bachmann think President Obama insulted Israel, so did George W. Bush. Bush and Clinton both supported basing Mideast peace talks on the 1967 borders of Israel and Palestine. And President Obama made it very clear today. He intends to stand by Israel.

OBAMA: As for Israel, our frienship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable and we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.

SCHULTZ: And the president will have the chance to build on the speech tomorrow morning when he meets with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. For more on this, let's bring in former Florida congressman Robert Wexler. He is now the president of the Center for Middle East Peace. Mr. Wexler, good to have you with us tonight. You heard what the right-wingers are saying. Did the president betray Israel today?

WEXLER: No, not at all. As you correctly showed, the president reiterated America's unshakable commitment to Israel's security. And that follows two years of extraordinary cooperation between the American and the Israeli military and security forces. As to the issue of the 1967 lines, with territorial swaps, ironically, Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, to the Knesset, said that he would accept a resolution that ensured that Israel kept the large settlement blocs. Well, that's the Israeli way of saying '1967 lines with territorial swaps.' What people need to understand -- when the president says '67 lines with mutually agreed swaps' Israel would wind up keeping roughly 80 percent of the Jewish Israelis who today live outside of the '67 lines. They would be incorporated into the internationally-recognized borders of Israel. That would be an extraordinarily positive development for Israel.

From NBC News' First Read:
*** Throwing Israel under the bus? For longtime chroniclers of the Middle East peace process, the most surprising part of President Obama’s speech yesterday was the reaction to his call for the eventual Israel-Palestine borders to be based on the 1967 lines. Israeli PM Netanyahu said it was “indefensible.” Romney fired off this statement: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.” Pawlenty followed by saying it was a “mistaken and very dangerous demand.” Why was this reaction surprising? Because, as the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes, the 1967 lines have been the basic Middle-East-peace idea for at least the last 12 years. “This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.” 
*** The ’67 borders have become the new individual mandate: So in that respect, you could compare the 1967 lines to the individual health-care mandate or cap-and-trade -- ideas that weren’t really controversial before Obama proposed it. Also, note the difference between the tough Romney/Pawlenty statements and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s. In his statement, Rubio began by praising the president, and then he said this on the ’67 borders: “Unfortunately, the President’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders marks a step back in the peace process, as the U.S. must not pre-determine the outcome of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” That’s a fair point -- Obama was negotiating publicly in his speech by mentioning the borders. But it’s hard to see how the president was throwing Israel “under the bus” when he also used his speech demanding that the eventual Palestinian state be “non-militarized” and questioning the Hamas-Fatah agreement. “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama asked. That's a "get out of negotiations" card for Israel, but apparently no one heard THAT? A truth about people who are passionate about this Middle East debate: They only hear what they don’t like.

No comments: