Last week, I read the news coverage of President Obama’s major address on the Middle East with great interest. That turned to anger pretty quickly, though, when I read Obama’s demand that Israel must accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
This whole mess is a hairy issue, one that’s defied the world’s best minds and many attempts to solve. I’m obviously not going to solve it here. But Obama displayed a stunning lack of understanding of Israel’s position in the Middle East.
Israel is a little country, right up against the Mediterranean Sea. There’s no place to go if they’re overrun, which makes the president’s suggestion that Israel go back to the 1967 borders offensive and unpractical.
Doesn’t Obama understand that the region has changed quite a lot since 1967? Doesn’t he realize how close that border is to Tel Aviv? Doesn’t Obama realize that Israel absolutely has to have defensive buffers in order to ensure its survival? Doesn’t he realize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and always will be? Doesn’t Obama realize that Israelis on its own, literally surrounded by people who want the Jewish state wiped from the earth? Doesn’t Obama realize that if Israel falls, the Jewish people will – within a few generations – cease to exist?
Apparently not. Or he doesn’t care, which is worse.
In any case, as Dana Milbank points out today, he’s driven Israeli moderates toward Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s more hard-line camp. That’s a colossal blunder.
Obama needs people like Milbank’s au pair – the moderates who see both the Israeli and Palestinian side to the whole question. There’s no question that the Palestinians also deserve to have a chance to survive. But that can’t come at the expense of Israel and the Jewish people.
There are more Jews in Israel now than there are in the United States. (Yes, this article is from 1998, but it is illustrative.) And the Jewish population in the United States is in decline. The Nazis did quite an efficient job of wiping out the Jews in Europe; the Jews in Europe will never recover from that. So what’s left? Israel. There will never be another Jewish Diaspora. There simply isn’t enough Jews left.
Those are the stakes for the Jewish people — existence. Is it any wonder that Israel is reticent when it comes to giving up land for peace? And making a bargain with Fatah and its alliance with Hamas?
Something needs to give. That’s for sure. But asking Israel to bet its very survival on making a deal with the people who want it gone, and giving up its defensive buffers is asking too much. Netanyahu gets this. It’s a pity that Obama doesn’t seem to.