In a much-touted speech today bearing the modest title of “Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa,” Barack Obama responded to the Arab revolt of the past five months with elements of common sense and even eloquence (“through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades”). He also defined a U.S. policy in support of reform and against violence I find worthy of discussion and debate.
But the president, ever in thrall to the illusion of “linkage,” stepped on his lines by devoting the final fifth of his speech to the Arab–Israeli conflict and articulating principles that, in the words of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Robert Satloff, “constitute a major departure from long-standing U.S. policy.”
That departure is not for the better; one line sums up Obama’s mistake: “The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel . . . must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” Note how he demands that Israel alone “must act boldly,” code words for making concessions to enemies sworn to eliminate the Jewish state.
This is not policy; this is folly.