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What Obama’s MENA Speech Means
Something old, something new, something borrowed . . .


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Charles Krauthammer

Even more alarming to Israel is Obama’s omission of previous American assurances to recognize “realities on the ground” in adjusting the 1967 border, meaning U.S. agreement that Israel would incorporate the thickly populated, close-in settlements in any land swap. By omitting this, Obama leaves the impression of indifference to the fate of these settlements. This would be a significant change in U.S. policy and a heavy blow to the Israeli national consensus.

The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves . . . in a sovereign and contiguous state.

Normal U.S. boilerplate except for one thing: Obama refers to Palestinian borders with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. But the only Palestinian territory bordering Egypt is Gaza. How do you get contiguity with Gaza? Does Obama’s map force Israel to give up a corridor of territory connecting the West Bank and Gaza? This is an old Palestinian demand which would cut Israel in two. Is this simply an oversight? Or a new slicing up of Israel?     

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Finally, in calling for both parties to “come back to the table,” the Palestinians have to explain “the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas. . . . How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?”      

Not a strong statement about Washington rejecting any talks involving Hamas. A mere placeholder.      

On the other hand, Obama made no mention here of Israeli settlements. A mere oversight? Or has Obama finally realized that his making a settlement freeze a precondition for negotiations — something never demanded before he took office — was a disastrous unforced error? One can only hope.        

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 the Washington Post Writers Group.



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