I’m not as distressed by Obama’s speech as some analysts. Yes, it would have been better if Obama had not talked about a settlement based on the 1967 lines — or had at least mentioned that those lines were breached by Iranian-backed mobs over the weekend. But he didn’t say that those lines should become the borders, he said there would be “land swaps,” which leaves room for interpretation and/or negotiation (except that there are no Palestinians leaders willing to negotiate with Israelis and there have not been for quite some time; this speech did nothing to change that).
The U.S. government — presidents and Congresses — have promised Israel that any two-state solution will leave Israel with defensible borders — not the alternative: indefensible borders. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu mostly wants — and needs — to retain Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, the suburbs (settlements if you prefer) adjacent to Jerusalem, and a military presence in the Jordan River Valley to protect against the possibility of invasion by Iranian or other ground troops at some point in the future.
Most Israelis would probably be willing to give up the rest of the West bank and some land inside Israel — in particular Arab communities that could wind up within the Palestinian state if they’d prefer (which, it should be pointed out, most would not).
But all of this is moot because Hamas will not accept a Jewish state within any borders. Hamas openly seeks to exterminate Israel and Israelis. Just a few days ago, Hamas MP and cleric Yunis Al-Astal told Al-Aqsa TV that there will be a “great massacre” of the Jews who have been “brought in droves to Palestine.” This, he said, is divinely ordained: “Allah wants to relieve humanity of their evil.” Al-Astal specified that “the Palestinians — and the Islamic nation behind them — will have the honor of annihilating the evil of this gang.” In other words: A Hamas official and Muslim cleric is calling for genocide. When are Western leaders and the mainstream media going to begin discussing this?
Most troubling about Obama’s speech: Only one paragraph was devoted to Iran. Obama still doesn’t recognize that the regime ruling Iran is central to the problems of the Middle East and to the Grand Jihad being waged against the West. As my FDD colleague Mark Dubowitz put it:
Everyone has taken their eye off the Iranian ball during the tumult of the past few months. Obama needed to get everyone refocused. He didn’t do that.
Where were the forceful comments by President Obama on the Iranian threat which more than any other represents the most significant challenge to both the Arab Spring and American national security?
He needed to reassure America’s allies that America stood as a guarantor of security against an aggressive Iranian offensive to undermine American interests, including an Iranian campaign to ensure Assad’s survival by all means necessary. The Iranians understand that where they gain, America loses, and they’re ruthlessly playing the game to win.
Obama addressed the Iranian nuclear issue only in passing. He finally spoke to the brave Iranians who long for a future free of murder, torture and rape at the hands of their rulers. But he needed to make it clear that his administration stood by them and that it was clear to him there was no nuclear deal with a regime that murders and tortures its own people.
And he didn’t make it clear that American policy will be to counter Iranian influence everywhere in the Arab world, including Syria. In the most troubling part of the speech, he gave Assad a choice to lead a transition to democracy. That is like asking Qaddafi to lead a transition to sanity.