Krauthammer’s Take

by NRO Staff

From Thursday night’s Fox News All-Stars.

On President Obama’s endorsing the 1967 lines as the basis for Middle East peacemaking:

What Obama did today is something that no American president has ever done, which is to endorse the return to the 1967 lines, which … would reduce Israel to a country with a waist eight miles wide.

Now, the reason this is odd is because you would expect it would be at least in return for something. But the Palestinians in the two and a half years of this administration have not offered anything as a concession to the Israelis. [Palestinian leader] Mahmoud Abbas has boycotted the negotiations. And then, a few weeks ago he joins in a government with Hamas, which is dedicated to the extermination of Israel. In return for all of those anti-Israel gestures [by Abbas], Obama makes the biggest concession [to the Palestinians] of the entire Arab-Israeli negotiations in 50 years.

And second, it’s an issue of trust. Whenever Israel negotiates, there’s an asymmetry. It gives away a tangible asset — land — in return for promises, which are ephemeral. America looks at that and says: “Look, we understand. And thus, we will balance the risk by giving you American assurances that will help you because of the asymmetry in negotiations.”

In 2004, Israel was preparing a withdrawal from Gaza, and it got explicit written promises from the U.S. government that it [the United States] would not ask Israel a return to the ‘67 lines and it [the United States] would support Israel holding on to the close-in settlements as a new  “reality on the ground.”

What Obama did today is to tear up that agreement.

If Israel cannot rely on the assurances of the United States, which is a way to balance the risks it takes, then it cannot negotiate — and it has to wonder how much it can trust this American president. …

If Obama is tearing up Bush era-agreements, how can Israel have any confidence in any of the assurances … Obama is giving? …

Second, [with] this idea of negotiating the borders, Israel is giving up all the bargaining chits. Once it gives up [all the land beyond] the ‘67 lines, what’s it got as a bargaining chit? And then [after surrendering the land] Israel enters into negotiations on the right of return — which is the flooding of Israel with millions of Arabs and destroying Israel demographically as a Jewish state? It’s going to be naked. It’s not going to have any negotiating chits. …

Every administration in the past has rejected the so-called right of return. Obama only did [so] indirectly today. So why didn’t he do it directly? …

I understand that the Israelis were told only a few days ago there would be no new news on this area [about Arab-Israeli negotiations], and it [Obama's new policy] was dropped on them. Odd that a president would initiate a radically new policy without a previous negotiation with our closest ally in the region. That in and of itself again raises the trust issue.

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