Politics & Policy

Borderline Treachery

Obama proposes leaving Israel indefensible.

Would that the president of the United States were as worried about Arizona’s border as he is about “Palestine’s.”

There was less fanfare about this latest Obama oration on the future of the Middle East, staged at Foggy Bottom, than there was about his 2009 Cairo speech. It was, however, every bit as delusional, and twice as treacherous.

As for the delusional, “Arab Spring” devotees are thrilled that the president has morphed into his predecessor on the Democracy Project — the enterprise in which future generations of American taxpayers go deeper into hock as our tapped-out government borrows more Chinese billions in order to stimulate the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the few shovel-ready projects President Obama has managed to find (and as a union, the Brothers make the SEIU look like the Jaycees). There is cruel irony in the Arab Spring hallucination, though, evidenced by this bit of rhetorical flourish: “Through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in six years.”

As the president utters his paeans to nonviolence, Egyptians and Iraqis continue slaughtering their religious minorities, and Bashar Assad, the “reformer,” murders his Syrian subjects in the street with the help of his friends at Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization whose day job is running the Lebanese government. The democracy fetish that gave Hezbollah and Hamas thugs the patina of political legitimacy is about to place Egypt under the thumb of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is itching to deep-six the treaty that has kept peace with Israel for 30 years. Speaking of Israel, it is recovering from a weekend in which thousands of “peaceful protesters” stormed four of its borders. Meanwhile, Iraq, which is touted by Arab Spring enthusiasts — and now even the Obama Left — as a Democracy Project success story, just announced that it will show its gratitude to American soldiers and taxpayers by expanding military ties with Iran, the world’s leading facilitator of Islamist terror. Pakistan, when not holding memorial services for Osama bin Laden, is exploding in bloodshed. The Obama administration is pleading with the Taliban to come to the negotiating table; you may recall that the Taliban is the reason our troops are still in Afghanistan preventing the collapse of its fragile “democracy” and the reopening of a safe haven for al-Qaeda. And al-Qaeda’s current safe haven, Yemen, is the site of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. So much for nonviolence.

The president stumbled into a bracing truth when he compared the change achieved by the people in the region, on the one hand, and by terrorists on the other. The change both are seeking is the same: the creation of sharia societies. Obama and Democracy Project promoters like to frame the Arab Spring as the ultimate rejection of al-Qaeda. But it is, at most, a discovery that there are better tactical routes to the promised land than al-Qaeda’s crude brutality. That promised land is not Western liberalism; it is Islam in all its repression of free speech, religious liberty, and equality — American principles the president spoke of his boundless determination to promote, while avoiding a single mention of Islam or sharia, which make achieving those principles a pipedream in this region.

Speaking of the promised land, the real one, Israel, is apparently getting smaller. This was Obama’s news-making treachery, and its ramifications are impossible to predict, other than that they bode ill.

For the first time in history, an American president explicitly called for a settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict premised on the 1967 borders — i.e., the 1949 armistice line, the tenuous state of play before Israel captured the West Bank (actually, Judea and Samaria), the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights in the Arab war of aggression to destroy the Jewish state. To be sure, Obama said that there would also have to be territorial “swaps” to satisfy security concerns. This caveat, though, is cold comfort for Israel, America’s only true ally in the region.

To begin with, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to point out, the 1967 borders are “indefensible.” That is why they have never been the starting point of U.S. policy, even though they always hover over negotiations. In its implacable hostility to Israel, the “international community” chooses to forget how and why the Arab side first grabbed, then lost, the territory in question. For nearly a half century since the adoption of U.N. Security Council resolution 242, the Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff explains, American administrations of both parties have called for eventual Israeli withdrawal to “secure and recognized” borders, a phrase interpreted as “not synonymous with the pre-1967 boundaries.”

By his new articulation, President Obama would deny Israel crucial negotiating leverage. If there is to be a peace settlement (which there cannot be until there are two parties that want peace), Israel must have the latitude to make territorial concessions in exchange for reliable concessions on security and other matters. It cannot be coerced into accepting an Obama-imposed fait accompli that leaves it fatally vulnerable to enemies whose ferocity is only encouraged by this bullying.

Bear in mind that what are called the “1967 borders” were never agreed-upon national boundaries. The Jewish claim on Judea and Samaria has roots in antiquity. This fact was intentionally obfuscated by Obama’s earlier suggestion in Cairo that Israel’s creation was an ill-conceived payback for the Holocaust, as it is by the convention of referring to Judea and Samaria as “the West Bank,” the name Jordan gave them when it seized and occupied them at the conclusion of Israel’s war of independence. The Arabs, of course, never created a Palestinian state when it was within their power to do so. Thus, the final disposition of this territory has never been resolved. It is a subject for negotiations, not predetermined Palestinian sovereignty.

When, in the decades after the 1967 war, Israelis built homes in Judea and Samaria, they were building on ancient Jewish land. Hundreds of thousands of them now live in the thriving communities that the world, in its glossary of delegitimization, calls “settlements.” But recognizing how dramatically conditions on the ground had changed since 1967, President Bush declared in 2004 that that there could not realistically be “a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” As the Washington Times’ Eli Lake reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu — who was sandbagged by Obama’s newly announced policy only a day before his scheduled meeting with the president — will now press for a reaffirmation of this U.S. commitment, reminding Obama that Bush’s conclusion was overwhelmingly supported by Congress.

Not only is Obama’s new position on the borders a sellout of this American commitment to Israel; it is an adoption of Hamas’s position. This is palpably alarming for several reasons. The first involves rewarding terrorism, the Islamic practice of which Obama purports to be eradicating. Hamas (i.e., the Palestinian branch of the same Muslim Brotherhood that is poised to take the reins in neighboring Egypt) remains pledged to Israel’s destruction. In his speech, Obama paid lip service to the pie-in-the-sky assumption that Hamas will ultimately come to see terrorism as futile (even as the jihadists reap the benefits of practicing terror). But he did not demand that Palestinians convincingly renounce terror and accept without reservation Israel’s permanent existence as a Jewish state. This president’s demands are made only on Israel; Hamas gets hopey-changey cajoling.

Because it will never recognize Israel’s right to exist, Hamas’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders does not translate into support for the dreamy two-state solution. It is a way station to Hamas’s goal of a one-state solution. This is to be reached by an inside/outside strategy: The newly formed “Palestine” would continue to pressure Israel with terror attacks from without, while within Israel, Islamists would exploit democracy, assembling the critical mass of Israeli Arabs, leftists, and returned Palestinian “refugees” needed to destroy Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

Then there is the matter of timing. The president chose to announce his new position on the 1967 borders only days after the Palestinian Authority — run by Fatah, the “moderates” who maintain their own terrorist wing, the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades — formed a unity government with Hamas. Again, while from one side of his mouth the president claims the Arab Spring is a rejection of terror, from the other he tells the terrorists that their methods work.

In the course of insisting that the Palestinians must have their own sovereign state, Obama also slipped in the stipulation that it must be a contiguous state. Oughtn’t it to go without saying that Gaza does not abut Judea and Samaria? You can’t make them “contiguous” without ceding to the Palestinians the swath of Israel that would be needed to connect them.

To be fair, Obama is not the first to use this disturbing formulation. Bush State Department officials, who often seemed every bit as eager to placate the Palestinians, used to say “contiguous,” too. Still, hearing this word from a U.S. president who has already called for a territorial contraction that would make their country indefensible, and who seems decidedly blasé about its contiguity, Israelis cannot be blamed for wondering whether the land “swaps” Obama has in mind will carve Israel into separate slices.

For all the appalling things Obama did say, however, the worst was what he didn’t. In the greater scheme of things, borders are a subordinate issue, and they’d be a trivial one were it not for Israel’s existential security problems. Many rival countries have territorial disputes, but they either live with them or settle them because they do not question each other’s right to exist as sovereign nations. The Palestinians, by contrast, do not accept Israel’s existence. They do not want peace and they will not renounce terror. And why would they? Terror is serving them quite well, the “international community” having embraced the terrorists while making pariahs of the region’s only true democracy and beacon of human rights.

An American president who really wanted to outline the only worthy settlement of this intractable conflict could have given a very short speech. The Palestinians must accept Israel, they must convincingly renounce terrorism (none of this “resistance” legerdemain), and they must drop the ludicrous demand for a right of return that would effectively overrun Israel. If they did those three things, the territorial boundaries would take care of themselves, and Obama could go back to not worrying about America’s borders.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.


The Latest