WSJ Op-Ed: Obama Is An Anti-Israel President Who Has Mastered “Chutzpah”


obama3By Bret Stephens

Say what you will about President Obama’s approach to Israel – or of his relationship with American Jews – he sure has mastered the concept of chutzpah.

On Thursday at the State Department, the president gave his big speech on the Middle East, in which he invoked the claims of friendship to tell Israelis “the truth,” which to his mind was that “the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.” On Friday in the Oval Office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his version of the truth, which was that the 1967 border proposed by Mr. Obama as a basis for negotiating the outlines of a Palestinian state was a nonstarter.

Administration reaction to this reciprocal act of friendly truth-telling? “That was Bibi over the top,” the New York Times quoted one senior U.S. official, using the prime minister’s nickname. “That’s not how you address the president of the United States.”

Maybe so. Then again, it isn’t often that this or any other U.S. president welcomes a foreign leader by sandbagging him with an adversarial policy speech a day before the visit. Remember when the Dalai Lama visited Mr. Obama last year? As a courtesy to Beijing, the president made sure to have the Tibetan spiritual leader exit by the door where the White House trash was piled up. And that was 11 months before Hu Jintao’s state visit to the U.S.

When this president wants to make a show of his exquisite diplomatic sensitivity-burgers with Medvedev, bows to Abdullah, New Year’s greetings to the mullahs-he knows how. And when he wants to show his contempt, he knows how, too.

The contempt was again on display Sunday, when Mr. Obama spoke to the Aipac policy conference in Washington. The speech was stocked with the perennial bromides about U.S.-Israeli friendship, which brought an anxious crowd to its feet a few times. As for the rest, it was a thin tissue of falsehoods, rhetorical legerdemain, telling omissions and self-contradictions. Let’s count the ways.

For starters, it would be nice if the president could come clean about whether his line about the 1967 line-“mutually agreed swaps” and all-was pathbreaking and controversial, or no big deal. On Sunday, Mr. Obama congratulated himself for choosing the hard road to Mideast peace as he prepares for re-election, only to offer a few minutes later that “there was nothing particularly original in my proposal.”

Yet, assuming Mr. Obama knows what he’s talking about, he knows that’s untrue: No U.S. president has explicitly endorsed the ’67 lines as the basis for negotiating a final border, which is why the University of Michigan’s Juan Cole, not exactly a shill for the Israel lobby, called it “a major turning point.”

Mr. Obama would also know that in 2009 Hillary Clinton had described this formula as “the Palestinian goal.” Now it’s Mr. Obama’s goal as well, even as he insists that “no peace can be imposed.”

Then there was Mr. Obama’s use of his favorite professorial trope: “Let me repeat what I actually said.” What followed was a rehearsal of what he supposedly said on Thursday.

But Mr. Obama’s problem isn’t, as he supposes, that people aren’t paying close enough attention to him. On the contrary, they’ve noticed that on Thursday Mr. Obama called for Israel to make territorial concessions to some approximation of the ’67 lines before an agreement is reached on the existential issues of refugees and Jerusalem. “Moving forward now on the basis of territory and security,” he said, “provides a foundation to resolve these two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Mr. Obama neglected to mention these points on Sunday, hence the telling omission. But the essence of his proposal is that Israel should cede territory, put itself into a weaker position, and then hope for the best. This doesn’t even amount to a land-for-peace formula.

That’s not all. Mr. Obama got some applause Sunday by calling for a “non-militarized” Palestinian state. But how does that square with his comment, presumably applicable to a future Palestine, that “every state has a right to self-defense”? Mr. Obama was also cheered for his references to Israel as a “Jewish state.” But why then obfuscate on the question of Palestinian refugees, whose political purpose over 63 years has been to destroy Israel as a Jewish state?

And then there was that line that “we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.” Applause! But can Mr. Obama offer a single example of having done that as president, except perhaps at the level of a State Department press release?

What, then, would a pro-Israel president do? He would tell Palestinians that there is no right of return. He would make the reform of the Arab mindset toward Israel the centerpiece of his peace efforts. He would outline hard and specific consequences should Hamas join the government.

Such a vision could lay the groundwork for peace. What Mr. Obama offered is a formula for war, one that he will pursue in a second term. Assuming, of course, that he gets one.

{The Wall Street Journal/ Newscenter}


  1. Enough Yidden voted for this President who talks from two sides of his mouth. Let’s hope they have more brains during the next election.

    When everyone at AIPAC clapped as Obama reworded his disgusting speach about the borders, I barfed.

  2. So far nobody has succesfuly responded to my chalenge. So ill make it even easier. With the same $150 to tzedaka of your choice

    Position: In order for their to be peace in the middle east Israel has to give up most of the territory liberated in 67′

    Whose position does this reflect Bush? Obama? Or both?
    (It certainly doesnt reflect mine!!!)
    No quote is neccessary, just if youve chosen one and not the other please inform us in a similar short and to the point sentence what the other’s postion is.
    If I can disprove the postion you attribute to the other, it would mean their positons are the same and you have to stop hocking ah cheiek that they are differnt. If i cant $150 to the tzedaka of your choice so we havent wasted time.
    Its a simple question, it shouldnt take time if you know your recent history and are honest

  3. Well this article has so much lying in it, picking one instances of lie, prevarication, and pettifogging is quite a chore.

    The article claims “No U.S. president has explicitly endorsed the ’67 lines as the basis for negotiating a final border”

    What if a U.S. president didn’t verbally endorse the principal, but went beyond mere words and actually implemented the principle by conducting actual negotiations according to the principal for two terms without verbally speaking the principle into a microphone, and then this U.S. President actually teamed up with the Prime Minister of Israel and offered the actual 1967 borders with mutually agreed swaps? What if this U.S. President actually wrote about it in his memoirs?

    Would The U.S. President who actually did this be more of a Palestinian Sympathizer and Israel Hater than the U.S. President who merely spoke out the belief in the principle?
    Would The U.S. President who actually did this be more of a Palestinian Sympathizer than the Israeli Prime Minister who actually made the offer?

    President GW Bush in fact implemented the principle and with Olmert actually offered the ‘67 lines with swaps to the Palestinian Authority. Olmert said that on “August 31, 2008, three weeks before he resigned, he offered 100 percent of West Bank land ( 6.8% in land swaps), 10,000 Palestinian refugees returning to Israel’s final borders, and the holy basin of Jerusalem’s Old City coming under joint Israeli-Palestinian-American- Jordanian-Saudi control. He last met with Abbas on September 16 of that year – five days before he resigned, and more than six months before he left office – and Abbas did not respond or make a counteroffer.” [end quote]

    So which is it- stating a belief of a democratic president? or actually implementing the giving up of the 1967 borders with a swap?

    What we learn is that even the WSJ cannot be trusted.

  4. George Orwell: You cannot be trusted. Bush offered together with Israel a final packaged deal, including a permanent resolution to the refugee problem. Obama, on the other hand, has offered [on Israel’s behalf]’67’ lines even before negotiations begin, so that Abbas can have leverage to obtain till ’49’ armistice lines as Abbas has claimed is Palestinian territory. And Obama intends to give right of return to many more than a token 10,000 refugees; this is why he declared that negotiations over refugees should take place only after territory borders are agreed upon, so that Israel won’t have anymore leverage to hold back Abbas’s demands with refuees; unlike Bush who conducted territorial negotiations together with refugee issue in order to be agreed upon by both parties as one packaged deal.

  5. For all you who would like an additional source for what you will see in the comment by George Orwell, go to these 2 links

    This shows that Condi Rice ( with authorization of Bush) established for the first time that negotiating were from a baseline of 1967.
    The Palestine Papers reveal that, in the months after the Annapolis conference, Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, explicitly endorsed using 1967 borders as a baseline for negotiations. On July 16, 2008, she tells Erekat and Ahmed Qurei that any proposed land swaps should use 1967 as a reference.

    Condi Rice: “I believe that the assumptions should be, the US will [secure this]. Any swaps will be in reference to the area occupied in 1967. When they [the Israelis] talk about 7.3 [per cent] they are talking about this.”

    Two weeks later, her language is even clearer: “1967 as a baseline,” Rice told Erekat and Qurei.

    When Obama gets into office we have obama turn against Bush’s insistence as in this quote from the link above:
    Mitchell warned Erekat not to press the issue any further: Mitchell: “Again I tell you that President Obama does not accept prior decisions by Bush. Don’t use this because it can hurt you. Countries are bound by agreements – not discussions or statements.”
    Erekat: But this was an agreement with Sec. Rice who said Any swaps will be in reference to the area occupied in 1967. When they [the Israelis] talk about 7.3 [per cent] they are talking about this.
    Two weeks later, her language is even clearer: “1967 as a baseline,” Rice told Erekat and Qurei.
    two weeks later Rice says:
    CR: The hardest thing to do is for them ( the Israelis) to write down “1967 with swaps.”

    This link shows that Condi was worried that the leaking of the US position and the palestinian position of “based on 1967 borders with swaps”
    Condi Rice: The Jordan Valley has to be part of Palestinian state.
    SE: I don?t feel protected by this approach.
    CR: What don?t you feel protected by?
    SE: Where is Jerusalem? If this document is leaked…
    CR: You think that they will leak that the basis is 1967? Or that they are thinking about a third party?
    DW: Or that this is our understanding of where you are? That is a vulnerability for both.
    CR: We need to have trust in this process.

    The Palestine Papers reveal that, in the months after the Annapolis conference, Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, explicitly endorsed using 1967 borders as a baseline for negotiations. On July 16, 2008, she tells Erekat and Ahmed Qurei that any proposed land swaps should use 1967 as a reference.

    Again Condi Rice with the

    Condi Rice minutes: “Bilateral work and then on regional security threats.
    On territory, I think that you agree that the base is all the territory occupied in 1967. We said this many times in all of our presence. We need to write it down. Even if it is not public. This means, of course, about Jerusalem, the NML, the Jordan Valley.
    They will continue to say that they need special security arrangements in the Jordan valley.
    We agreed that the final border will reflect swaps that take into account the West Bank Gaza Strip corridor. It is not agreed if they will be one to one. Look at creative solutions about settlements to stay with Israel without hurting Palestinian viability.
    The Palestinian state will have international borders with Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, and sovereignty over its territory.
    If that is agreed, what does that leave to worry about?
    If that is the base, what percentage will Israel annex, and what will they give in return? And where? They want 7.3%, for 5%. The major settlement blocs. You have problems. One because of the aquifer. And one because it bisects the West Bank in half. You need to dissect these bilaterally.”
    Condi Rice: On territory, if we take as the base, everything that is occupied in 1967 ? you will find that their position on 7.3% is close. It may not be enough, but it is close. 7.3 ? 5 = 2.3%. Plus the corridor. If the goal is that Palestine should not lose territory, then you are a couple of percentage points away. I understand that Maale Adumim and Ariel ? Maybe it can get a little closer. I will advocate to them that it can get a little closer. But I hope that you won?t lose the chance at a Palestinian state by sticking to 1.9%. The President is committed to a Palestinian state ? viable, contiguous ? but also thinks that Israeli population centers must be taken into account.
    [You should] take seriously Olmert?s proposal. It is not ideal. It?s not what you would have gotten in 1948, etc.”

    further Condi References to 1967 as a baseline : CR: I understand that there is no agreement without Jerusalem. 1967 as a baseline. But if we wait until you decide sovereignty over the Haram or the Temple Mount… Your children?s children will not have an agreement! Sometimes in international politics you need to have a device to solve the problem later. When it comes to holy sites, no one will argue the sovereignty of the other ? leave it unresolved [i.e. both Palestine and Israel could simultaneously claim sovereignty over the Haram].

    Rice: “I believe that the assumptions should be, the US will [secure this]. Any swaps will be in reference to the area occupied in 1967. When they [the Israelis] talk about 7.3 [per cent] they are talking about this.”
    Two weeks later, her language is even clearer: “1967 as a baseline,” Rice told Erekat and Qurei.

    Here are Condi Rice’s further references to 1967 as a base:
    “We are coming on August 20th, whether you want us to or not. I?d like to ask you to have the following things done:
    I really hope that the security people will have met intensely, and multiple times, to get a real sense of where [things stand] so we can have a second discussion on the 20th.
    Keep working on the refugee issue. Try to get rid of all the I?s and P?s, except for responsibility and right of return.
    I want to hear from you on territory. On Jerusalem, I want to hear from you that Jerusalem is critical to an agreement. There are practical, people, political, and extremely sensitive issues [about the religious places] that need to be resolved.

    in the Palestine papers we see deep frustration of the Palestinians on account of Obama not pushing for a freeze as did Bush since Bush wrote the Roadmap freeze and reiterated it at anapolis.

    Obama pressured PA negotiators to restart talks and refused to honour one of the Bush administration’s key promises which was a complete settlement freeze. The Palestinians are on record saying that the complete settlement freeze is the one thing they got from Bush.

    Gregg Carlstrom Last Modified: 24 Jan 2011 19:42

    questions about palestine papers
    What are the Palestine Papers?

    The Palestine Papers are the largest leak of confidential files in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a cache of more than 1,600 documents encompassing the most recent decade of negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. They are an unprecedented window into Israeli, PA, US, European, and Arab relations and reveal a wealth of information about how the parties negotiate behind closed doors.

    Taken in total, the Palestine Papers instigate a broader conversation on such issues as whether a two state endgame is achievable and desirable and whether international and US-led processes to reach that goal have only deepened Israeli occupation.

    There are 1,684 total documents, including

    275 sets of meeting minutes;
    690 internal e-mails;
    153 reports and studies;
    134 sets of talking points and prep notes for meetings;
    64 draft agreements;
    54 maps, charts and graphs;
    and 51 “non-papers.”

  6. Sorry I just have to add this. if you look at the comment above of Zadok C you see that what Obama said at AIPAC is like Fox News should be screaming that Obama plagiarized Bush’s (Condi Rice’s) negotiations….Obama intentionally took the Condi Rice minutes and inserted them into his address to AIPAC.

  7. Mr. Yankel:

    There are a few differences between Obama and Bush. The first is who the Israeli Prime Ministers were and which positions they held; as I have said many times before, one cannot expect the President of the U.S. to be more pro-Israel than the Israeli Prime Minister he is dealing with. On that score, there is a world of difference between Olmert, Barak and Netanyahu.

    Please see the following link for an article by an author far more eloquent than I, who explains just what the – perhaps subtle, perhaps not – differences between the Obama and Bush positions are:

    Thank you

  8. #8 thanks for the link, interisting peace though with a couple errors throughout. For example Did you know clinton never made refrence to “palestinian state” he was always careful to call it an “entity” It was Bush who first made the idea of 2 states living side by side part of american policy a policy continued by Obama. but this is all beside my point.

    My point is that Obamas speach last thursday which many people have insisted was “unprecedented” or a departure from previous administrations was nothing of the sort. Not which president is more pro-Israel.

    If anyone can point out how the policy was differnt, that is where the chalennge lies. Details in #2 above

  9. The first BHO speech was the camel’s nose on the tent. Had it not gotten a sharp slap on the nose from Netanyahu and others, BHO and his handlers – such as Soros – would have felt it was a successful beginning to evaporating the Jewish state and nation.
    I must object to Netanyahu’s omission of G-d and our Torah heritage, and the painful compromises we already had made, in the wounds and deaths of our many innocent women, men and children, with no massive reprisals from the IDF.